I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
LOVE THE COOPERS | 106 min | PG-13
Director: Jessie Nelson
Cast: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Alex Borstein, Alan Arkin and June Squibb
Family in ‘Coopers’ craves holiday miracle while we settle for the same old fruitcake
It’s that holiday time of year again when we obsess over family, stuff our faces fuller than Augustus Gloop, compete with our Pinterest frenemies in decor. And, of course, time for the annual obnoxious Christmas movies
Every year, we get schlock like CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, FRED CLAUS, and FOUR CHRISTMASES, but when’s the last time we’ve had a CHRISTMAS VACATION? Let’s face it, we haven’t had a solid Christmas flick since 2003’s ELF. The quality of modern holiday films is wearing awfully thin. What will future generations call quality holiday cinema? Each year, though, we give it another go.
This year’s latest lump of coal is LOVE THE COOPERS, a Christmas film structured like LOVE ACTUALLY about four generations of a family coming together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. Through a series of unexpected visitors and improbable events, the Cooper family turn their undesirable gathering into a surprising rediscovery of family and the spirit of the holiday.
LOVE THE COOPERS is about as typical as Christmas movies get. It features an all-star cast (including Diane Keaton, John Goodman and Olivia Wilde), family secrets, a black-sheep child and sibling rivalry. Everything goes wrong until it finally goes right and they learn some valuable lesson. It’s the dysfunctional family story that’s been done countless times, including the aforementioned CHRISTMAS VACATION.
Why do we love these kind of films so much? Is it because every family has that one oddball to some degree? Do these on-screen families make us feel better about our own?
While the cast for this comedy is admittedly strong, there’s nothing you haven’t laughed at before. An old aunt passing gas, a dog eating prepared food off the table — it’s all tired and recycled jokes straight out of the holiday recipe book, making for disappointingly bland fare from actors who have proven their chops in other comedic vehicles.
With the exception of casting Jake Lacy (OBVIOUS CHILD) as a soldier so likable that one of the Coopers (Wilde) asks him to be her perfect boyfriend at the family dinner, the film lacks the kind of warmth you can feel when moviegoers connect with what’s going on onscreen. One suspects the filmmakers aimed to bring edifying tears to audiences’ eyes by the end, but with its overly sentimental approach, COOPERS also puts viewers at risk of hating themselves come the next morning. It’s strictly a film made to come out around Christmas and not much else.
LOVE THE COOPERS opens tomorrow (11/13).