"Love the Coopers" is right in the wheelhouse of people who already have their decorations unboxed and ready. It's sappy and sentimental, but somehow managed to make my Grinch heart grow, despite ham-handed direction and an occasionally eye-roll-worthy script.
Let's get this out of the way. It is too goddamn early for a Christmas movie. This week's Starbucks faux-controversy managed to put me in even less of the pre-pre-holiday spirit.
But "Love the Coopers" is right in the wheelhouse of people who already have their decorations unboxed and ready. It's sappy and sentimental, but somehow managed to make my Grinch heart grow, despite ham-handed direction and an occasionally eye-roll-worthy script.
Charlotte and Sam (Diane Keaton and John Goodman) are a longtime married couple on the verge of separation, putting their differences aside for the sake of their grown children in attempt to have one last merry Christmas.
Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is marking her return home for Christmas by delaying it in an airport bar, where she meets a deploying soldier named Joe (Jake Lacy of "Obvious Child"). Hank (Ed Helms) is trying to put his messy divorce and recent layoff to the side for the holidays.
Elsewhere, Charlotte's younger sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) engages in some Christmas shoplifting that threatens her family visit. Bucky (Alan Arkin) attends to his regular diner ritual to see his favorite waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) only to learn it's her last day there.
The family - and their many storylines - all converge for a Christmas meal where everything comes to a head and, eventually, a tidy resolution.
"Coopers" is a rare movie that survives almost solely on the strength of its stellar cast (including an excellent choice for the uncredited narrator which I'll let be a surprise as intended).
Director Jessie Nelson ("I Am Sam") has the unenviable task of spinning a lot of plates, but she also overplays some moments of broad comedy and sentimentality. Writer Steven Rogers pens a well-meaning script that sometimes feels overreaching, especially in the early going.
But uniformly great performances and the familiar familial themes slowly swayed my cynicism. The casting directors of "Love the Coopers" deserve a raise.
Keaton is great, as usual, and Goodman taps into the every-dad role that was his breakout on "Roseanne." Arkin is the warm and wise old grandfather with a dash of melancholy, and Wilde and Lacy actually make for a great (if terribly predictable) rom-com through the middle.
"Love the Coopers" is built for holiday family viewing. It's warm and funny - except when it veers into cheaper dog-fart laughs - and is worthy viewing. Hopefully it will stick in theaters long enough to actually see around Christmas.
3 stars out of 4