By Lizzy Scully
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen and Sissy Spacek.
Director: Seth Gordon
Screenwriters: Caleb Wilson, Jon Lucas, Matt Allen, Scott Moore
Producers: Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman, Roger Birnbaum
MPAA Rating: PG-13.
1.5 out of 5 Stars
Reese Witherspoon (playing Kate) and Vince Vaughn (playing Brad) lead this only slightly enjoyable, star-packed holiday film about a self-absorbed couple that has spent the past three years sequestering themselves away from their four divorced, and dysfunctional, families in order to create an idyllic world for just the two of them. Like “Meet the Fockers,” it’s a story about a couple’s demise at the hands of their eccentric families. Unfortunately, unlike “Meet the Fockers,” this banal movie lacks innovation, and is full of overdone jokes, stereotypical characters, and unbelievable circumstances.
Kate and Brad have been totally self-absorbed with each other and avoid their families over Christmas by going on vacations to the tropics. However, when they are caught on television at the airport the day they are supposed to leave the country, unable to travel because of bad weather, they are forced to visit all four divorced households.
Chaos ensues. The four families drag heaps of stuff out of the closet the couple would rather not face. In a totally unlikely scenario at his father’s home, Brad’s nasty, Neanderthal-like brothers and their children emasculate him by beating the heck out of him, which begs the question, why would Brad ever go back home in the first place? And at Kate’s mother’s house, a half-dozen of her female relatives clearly disdain her, treating her like dirt. While humor denigrating the main characters can be funny at times, in this movie the scenarios are totally farfetched and even painful to watch.
Plus, not only are the characters on the whole spiteful and cruel, they are also shallow and based entirely on stereotypes. For example, Kate’s mother is the classic cougar, a middle aged woman who wears skimpy clothes, flirts too much with younger men and converts to Christianity while dating a preacher (how many times do we have to see this overplayed character?). And Brad rarely strays from the stereotype of the megalomaniac who wants all the stuff that goes along with a relationship except the actual commitment. Bleh. It’s a tired, old story. What was the director thinking?
On the other hand, the storyline does have a modicum of charm to it. Witherspoon is sweet and fun to watch as always, and she brings a bit of spice to the film. In one of the only innovative scenes, her character realizes while taking one of her sister’s pregnancy tests that, despite the decision she and Brad made to not have children, she may actually want to have them one day. But in a funny twist, her niece steals what she refers to as a “marker” while Kate is still sitting on the toilet, and Kate must confront one of her old fears in order to get it back.
Still, this movie basically fails in its attempts to be funny because it overdoes old jokes (like the baby barfing on the reluctant person holding it), plays too heavily on overdone stereotypes, and fails to bring any humanity to the characters. This film isn’t really worth the price of admission.
<p>Reese Witherspoon (playing Kate) and Vince Vaughn (playing Brad) star in the movie, directed by Seth Gordon.</p>