Few things have the power of emotional manipulation like a Christmas movie. You’re already softened up by eggnog and nostalgia and then war hero Harry Bailey raises a toast to his brother, George, the richest man in Bedford Falls, and boom, you’re sobbing into your fruitcake.
“Love the Coopers” knows this and man, oh man, does it pull out all the stops trying to go for the jugular. Unfortunately, it swings and misses to such an epic degree all of the plot contrivances wind up bordering on offensive.
“Love the Coopers” is a story of a WASP-y, dysfunctional family coming together for the holidays. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The most criminal part of this movie is they assembled a pretty decent cast to build up your expectations.
The gooey emotional core of the movie is Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam Cooper (John Goodman). They are a pair of Baby Boomers whose marriage has hit a rocky patch for a whole host of reasons. Much like their fictional marriage, Keaton and Goodman try their best, but it is clear they are just going through the motions.
Their kids aren’t in much better shape. Their son, Hank (Ed Helms), is an unemployed divorcee and all-around sad sack. He’s got some kids and an ex-wife floating around filling up space in this already bloated movie.
In most movies, Hank would be the most unlikable character, but this isn’t most movies and the competition is stiff.
His sister, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), is a caustic, bitter, loser in love (surprise!) who meets cute at an airport with a wholesome soldier on leave named Joe (Jake Lacy), whom she convinces to pose as her boyfriend to deflect her family’s concern for her love life.
Also bouncing around in this movie with no particular purpose is Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), who spends most of the movie annoying a police officer (played by Anthony Mackie) after a botched attempt at shoplifting (don’t ask).
Then, we have Charlotte and Emma’s father, Bucky (Alan Arkin dusting off his curmudgeonly old man persona), who is nursing a moderately creepy relationship with a local waitress (Amanda Seyfried).
We even have a mystery narrator who when his identity is revealed at the end of the movie will make your eyes roll so far back into your head you’ll have to send out a search party to recover them.
What occasional director Jessie Nelson (dude has averaged one movie per decade and since the other two were “Corrina, Corrina” and “I Am Sam,” we should be glad we are safe until the 2020s) is trying to accomplish along with schmaltzy screenwriter Steven Rogers (“Hope Floats,” “P.S. I Love You”) is yet another recreation of the “Love Actually” formula.
Of course, simply having a huge cast and seemingly unrelated storylines of people looking for love at Christmas time and hoping things work out is not going to cut it. You have to care if any of them find love. I didn’t care if any members of the Cooper clan actually survived until the end of the movie, let alone lived happily ever after.
This holiday season leave the emotional manipulation to the professionals (read: your family) and avoid “Love the Coopers” at all costs.
“Love the Coopers is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, and some sexuality.