Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
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).