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Overall Rating

Awesome: 5.77%
Worth A Look73.08%
Average: 5.77%
Pretty Bad: 13.46%
Total Crap: 1.92%

6 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Family Stone, The
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"More slight than Sly, but still hits the spot"
4 stars

The Family Stone is a curious intermingling of mainstream Hollywood romance, ensemble family drama, fish-out-of-water meet-the-parents style comedy and secular, feel good Christmas flick. It’s the second feature from writer-director Thomas Bezucha, following 2000’s gay-themed Big Eden.

The title is a pun (and nothing to do with funk band Sly and the Family Stone). Eldest son Everett (Dermot Mulroney) is bringing new girlfriend Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to New England to meet the rest of the Stone family. He also plans to propose on Christmas morning, for which he needs the blessing of his mother Sybil (Diane Keaton). Sybil has always promised to give Everett her mother’s wedding ring – the (other) family stone - when he found the right woman. But she seriously doubts that Meredith is the right woman.

The Stones are laidback, freewheeling and cheerfully inclusive. Except when it comes to an uptight, power-suited workaholic like Meredith, who has an uncanny knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The newcomer inadvertently arouses so much hostility in the Stones that she calls up her sister, Julie (Claire Danes), for moral support and checks into the local holiday inn. When Julie arrives, a comically fraught situation becomes even more complicated…

Bezucha and producer Michael London (Sideways) attracted a high calibre cast. Keaton, with her disarming throaty giggle and flaky charm, is in fine form as the outspoken and eccentric head of the family. Maintaining a lower profile is her patient husband Kelly, played by Craig T Nelson (the voice of Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles). Also in the background is pregnant eldest daughter Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser). Luke Wilson adds another Californian dude to his resume, as the softly spoken misfit Ben, a looser cannon than brothers Everett or Thad (Ty Giordano). Thad’s both gay and deaf and has his long-term African-American partner Patrick (Brian White) in tow. Finally, the youngest Stone is cagey, bitchy Amy (Rachel McAdams), who dismisses Meredith as a “total phony” and is determined to drive her from the house.

Sarah Jessica Parker is a gifted physical comedienne and a definite highlight is her drunken dancing in a bar, the first moment she – literally – lets her hair down. The (predictable) fun of a movie like this is seeing the stitched-up character lose inhibitions and/or receive their come-uppance. If anything, Meredith becomes less likeable as the story progresses and the comedy springs from other corners. Claire Danes, for instance, is delightful as Meredith’s goofy sister who quickly attracts Everett’s eye.

In only his second movie, Bezucha handles an experienced cast well. He keeps control of a wide array of characters and plots and has a good feel for pacing and mood. With so many balls in the air, Bezucha inevitably drops some. Meredith’s irritating throat-clearing tic quickly vanishes, as does the family’s use of sign language. Bezucha is happy to register a laugh and move on and, for the most part, I think he judges his audience correctly and makes the right decisions.

Still, Bezucha-the-director indulges Bezucha-the-writer in allowing the hoary old cliché of referencing an earlier Christmas classic – Judy Garland in Meet Me In St Louis turns up on late-night TV. But he avoids making Susannah’s daughter – the only child in the house – cutely precocious. He also subverts stereotypes by having the gay character not only deaf and in love with a black man but adopting a child (take that, Middle America!). Sure, the movie is part-fantasy, especially in this age of deepening neo-conservatism, but at least Bezucha is warmhearted without being self-congratulatory about it.

I found it easy to forgive the occasional plot contrivance and schmaltzy moment because the easy charm of the performers, especially Keaton, keeps proceedings grounded. The Family Stone is a low-key delight.

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originally posted: 12/19/05 13:45:12
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User Comments

12/02/17 Suzanne Best parts: he chase scene and any scene with Luke Wilson 4 stars
5/01/09 the dork knight SJP is not very convincing as uptight bitch. But yeah, I concur. Claine Danes = H-O-T 4 stars
11/17/07 David Pollastrini Claire Danes and Rachel McAdams lok=oked very hot in this! 4 stars
5/05/07 Indychick pointless crap. Marketed as a comedy but has no humor 1 stars
12/28/06 Agent Sands Caring for the family is like caring for the one we could hardly endure in Meet the Parents 3 stars
8/14/06 Sharon this movie will make you laugh, cry, and have you on the edge of your seat totally worth it 5 stars
5/08/06 Diane Perkins Diane Keaton and Rachel Mcadams were excellent in this movie. 4 stars
3/05/06 Allison Lafferty I like Rachel too, but Amy taunts Meredith too cruelly. 4 stars
3/05/06 I love Rachel McAdams Worth it alone for the way Rachel McAdams flexes her caca-kissers near the end. 4 stars
3/04/06 Marcia Lartz Eric, I actually liked '"one yeer later" epilogue'. Too many movie leave too much hanging. 4 stars
1/27/06 Don Paco Sobczinsky says it best: characters are smug, self-righteous and emotionally in-bred jerks 2 stars
1/07/06 Tim Chandler Lots of potential, but it falls apart in the last third. 3 stars
1/06/06 Anthony Heart warming and heart wrenching. A little predictable, but highly entertaining. 5 stars
1/02/06 Jeff Anderson Touching & heartfelt. With the exception of Parker, the cast is great especially McAdams!!! 5 stars
12/17/05 Suzz you laugh/ you cry; you're entertained; what's not to like 4 stars
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  16-Dec-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 02-May-2006



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