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The Family Stone
DVD disk
05.09.2006 By: Jason Adams
The Family Stone order
Director:
Thomas Bezucha

Actors:
Diane Keaton
Luke Wilson
Sarah Jessica Parker

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A man brings his prissy, uptight girlfriend home for the holidays, at which point his dysfunctional family proceeds to harass her for the remainder of the movie.

Lessons are learned, tears are shed, and I want my money back.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The only reason I mildly enjoyed THE FAMILY STONE was because all the people in it constantly hated Sarah Jessica Parker, a conviction I solidly endorse. Just how irritating is Ms. Parker(‘s character) in this movie? She somehow manages to annoy a deaf person with her constant talking and overall bitchiness. That could be a testament to a convincing “performance” on her part, but I’m not the right person to make that case.

I’m glad THE FAMILY STONE isn’t your typical feel-good Christmas movie, but I’m still not too blown away by the end product. Director Bezucha has compiled an amazing cast and desperately tries to shake up the typical domestic dynamic (“I know! I’ll make one of the kids deaf!…and gay!...and in an interracial relationship!”), but none of the family members ever get characterized by anything other than their respective roles. I didn’t know anything about Craig T. Nelson’s character at the end of the movie except that he was the father. As a result, the serious romantic relationships come across as forced and laughable. And I didn’t find the characters’ viciousness that appalling, but they definitely weren’t too endearing. The parts where the family acts overly insensitive and crass, while obviously meant in a humorous way, just feel unnatural and tacked on for shock value.

Comedies with dramatic moments, and vice versa, can be very effective, but Bezucha doesn’t balance the two very well. There’ll be a stretch of borderline-slapstick comedy which ends abruptly, only to be replaced by the requisite melodramatic montage of people alone, staring out the window, contemplating life. The worst case is the incredibly awkward Christmas Eve dinner scene, where the narrative stops for an excruciating five minutes of preachy dialogue about homosexuality. (I’m all for social commentary, but that really felt like it belonged in an after-school special.)

So why the three stars? Two reasons: One is Luke “I’d like a little black baby” Wilson, who is hilarious as usual and garners the majority of the film’s laughs despite his supporting role. And two, Rachel McAdams is absolutely adorable. (And shame on the costume designer for getting my hopes up that a girl as hot as McAdams would ever know who Dinosaur Jr. is, let alone wear one of their shirts.)
THE EXTRAS
While writing this section of the review I began to notice a trend…the repetition of the phrase “nothing special.” That perfectly describes the extras on this single-disc DVD; there’s quite a few but nothing truly worthwhile.

Commentary by Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney: Out of everyone in the cast, these are probably the two people I least wanted to hear talk about the movie. (Where’s Luke Wilson when you need him?) The commentary ends up being more of a conversation between the two, with constant giggling and poignant filmmaking questions like “What time did you wake up that morning?” A light and harmless, yet ultimately pointless track.

Commentary by writer/director Thomas Bezucha, producer Michael London, editor Jeffrey Ford and production designer Jane Ann Stewart: Granted, I’ve never made a movie, but when a director says the opening credits is “one of his favorite sequences in the film,” it doesn’t inspire much confidence in the viewer. Like the other track, nothing particularly terrible, but nothing really special either—just a lot of obvious commentary. (At one point, someone actually says “I probably should be saying something now.”)

Deleted Scenes (5:38): Six scenes with optional commentary by Bezucha. I don’t know if I’d call these “scenes;” each is under a minute long and act more like transitional bridges between actual scenes in the movie. They don’t really add anything new or interesting.

Gag Reel (5:46): More annoying than amusing. The theme of the gag reel seems to be “Sarah Jessica Parker can’t stop laughing”—even when a scene isn’t funny.

Behind the Scenes (17:44): Your average EPK featurette with cast/crew interviews and some behind-the-scenes footage. Move along, nothing to see here.

Casting Session (8:01): “It was the casting that saved us,” claims Bezucha, right before he begins kissing every member of the cast’s butt for ten minutes, spending most of the time on Diane Keaton (who probably deserves it, actually). Apparently, an earlier version of THE FAMILY STONE almost went into production with an entirely different cast but fell apart at the last minute, so Bezucha’s gushing is well-founded.

World Premiere (6:07): A spattering of self-satisfied interviews from the Red Carpet, hosted by some annoying Access Hollywood-reject.

Q & A Session (7:55): The cast, minus Keaton and Nelson, all got together for a group interview at the Screen Actor’s Guild Theatre. This is the one feature I actually found rewarding. The actors seem more natural than in your typical press interview and it was interesting to see how they interact with each other off set.

Meredith’s Strata: A recipe for the breakfast dish Parker’s character makes in the movie. It sounds pretty good. If I wasn’t a poor (lazy) college student, I might actually make it. (I noticed they didn’t include in the directions, “Dump it all over yourself,” which is what her character ends up doing.)

Also included are three Theatrical Trailers and various Previews for other movies.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
THE FAMILY STONE feels like a hybrid of a bunch of different movies; but it isn’t as funny a dysfunctional comedy as MEET THE PARENTS, as heart-wrenching a drama as TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, or as uplifting a family movie as MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (which someone actually watches in the movie). Still, it does have some laughs and the occasional heartwarming moment, which, being seven months away from Christmas, might be enough to tide you over.
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