Love The Coopers: Christmas dramedy stumbles

Thanksgiving is still more than a week away, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from looking ahead to Christmas as yet another home for the holidays film hit theaters Friday.

“Love, The Coopers” assembles a talented cast of all ages – from Alan Arkin to Diane Keaton and Marisa Tomei to Amanda Seyfried and Ed Helms – for a holiday themed family dramedy that finds a bevy of individually flawed stereotypes all seeking some form of love, acceptance and redemption.

The film follows the basic plot structure of the vastly superior “Love Actually,” which still feels fresh and cohesive more than a decade after its release in 2003.

Like “Love Actually,” “Valentine’s Day,” “He’s Just Not That Into You” and so many other ensemble-heavy films, “Love, The Coopers” tries to cram seven different interpersonal relationships as primary storylines in the film, all the while splashing in several gags involving a desperately hungry dog, a young girl who can’t stop cursing and an aging relative who forgets where she is.

All of these gags start off humorous and then quickly lose their luster as “Love, The Coopers” goes back to the well too many times to offset the dramatic tension in most of the film’s primary storylines.

The biggest flaw of “Love, The Coopers” is the poorly written screenplay from Steven Rogers, which acts as if conversations begin and end with sayings ripped out of greeting cards with sappy, over-the-top mantras that could be featured as segments on Dr. Phil.

Steve Martin offers the film’s best work as the never-seen, often-heard narrator responsible for guiding viewers through the convoluted train wreck of a plot.
It’s a shame that Martin doesn’t get to share screen time with Keaton, though John Goodman does yeoman’s work with a rather mundane character arc.

June Squibb of the critically acclaimed “Nebraska” plays a generally funny, but horribly underdeveloped caricature of the older family member slowly losing their mind in a way that feels more backwards than charming novelty.

Talented actor Anthony Mackie is completely squandered as a closeted cop whose arrest of a shoplifting Tomei turns into an off kilter therapy session from the back of a squad car. Both performers would have been better served if their characters had been left totally out of the film, freeing them up to do more useful work.

The remainder of the veteran cast all gets muddled together in a variety of cliché storylines that viewers will see coming a mile away. There’s no real freshness to any of these tired plot points, yet Olivia Wilde’s spunky rebel is a highlight among lowlights.

“Love, The Coopers” tries very hard to live up to films it emulates – “Love Actually” and “It’s Complicated” – but clunks its way through a plodding 107 minutes that feels much longer than it actually is. There will be plenty of opportunities to catch quality films this holiday season, with the final installment of “The Hunger Games” franchise coming this weekend. Seek out those opportunities as “Love, The Coopers” is a film that can be saved for a Netflix viewing next Christmas.

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