“Love the Coopers” is a story of a large extended family who are, for the most part, all dreading a Christmas Eve dinner where everyone gets together. The two main characters of the film are Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (Goodman), a couple who’ve been married for 40 years, however, their relationship is falling apart. This holiday stress coincides with their son Hank (Helms) losing his job, having a strained relationship with his ex-wife and children and their daughter, Eleanor (Wilde) meeting a soldier named Joe at an airport and developing a friendship with him.
These plot threads and more, such as one of Hank’s sons having a teen romance and another where Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei) being arrested ,develop for much of the film’s first half until they converge when everyone meets for Christmas.
Holiday movies seem to thrive when unpredictability is a focal point of the picture. “Christmas Vacation” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” are prime examples of the unpredictable moments leading to a really fun time.
“Love the Coopers” attempts to be this sort of film with multiple unpredictable moments and some drama added, but the movie gets heavily tied down because of sloppy pacing, an overuse of visual cues, a cliché in nearly every scene, unnecessary moments and absolutely terrible narration.
Let’s start with the film’s pacing. It’s obvious that the film had to set up each of the individual characters, the problem is that the movie spends way too much time doing so. One of the subplots going on could easily have been cut for more time later in the film. Heck, even small parts of subplots could have been cut.
For example, When Hank’s son is kissing a new girlfriend, there’s a mall cop who is there and thinks about breaking it up but decides not to because he remembers his own first kisses. While this cop “character” is only in this one single scene, the film still spends time giving him a flashback and narration coverage. Why?
The reason that this is a big deal is for the film’s second half. One of the fun things about these big get together movies is when everyone actually gets together. But the movie spends so much time on the set up that there’s hardly any time for more interaction.
Helms and Wilde are supposed to be siblings they only have a total of three sentences between one another. It leads to a second half that feels very rushed and leans too much on the same old things we’ve seen.
Then there are the visual cues. What I mean by this is there are too many moments where something is happening, but to help get the point across the movie actually shows it visually. For example, there’s a point in the movie where Wilde’s character is having a flashback to a sad moment and said the experience shattered her. At that moment, the film decides to use visual effects to actually make her character shatter. It feels way too spoon-fed and unnecessary since the actor’s emotion is already showing what’s going on!
A review of this movie isn’t complete without mentioning the narration, too. What did I just say about spoon-feeding the audience? That’s practically what the narration does through every. Single. Second. Was the narration necessary? No. Did it add any nuance? No. What makes it worse, though, is the reveal at the end about who the narrator of the film is. It completely breaks up any goodwill this movie may have had.
While “Love the Coopers” does have a talented cast, they seem to be wasted for the most part here. Keaton and Goodman spend most of the movie arguing even though it seems like their only disagreement is a choice whether or not to go on a trip. Amanda Seyfried and Alan Arkin actually have interesting characters who interact, but there’s not enough of a resolution to have a full impact.
On top of that, there are performers who are completely wasted. Anthony Mackie’s character is in the first half and has an OK set up but completely disappears in the second half, never to be mentioned again. Then there’s June Squibb, who was fantastic in 2013’s “Nebraska.” Here she just plays the grandma who is a bit loopy and can’t remember things, it’s such a waste of talent.
“Love the Coopers” is a movie that had potential. The cast is talented and there are some points that the dialogue is spot on, but so much surrounding it is too clichéd and tries to be too sweet sometimes. The reveal of the narrator pushes the movie off the proverbial cliff in terms of rating, so this one gets a 1 out of 5.