Love the Coopers

by Charles Nash

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 13, 2015

Jake Lacy and Olivia Wilde star in 'Love the Coopers'
Jake Lacy and Olivia Wilde star in 'Love the Coopers'  (Source:CBS Films)

Well, Christmas is officially ruined this year.

"Love the Coopers" has been advertised as a holiday-themed comedy, but don't let its marketing campaign fool you; this is a flat-out horror film. It features an array of A-list actors all inhabiting characters who appear to be clinically insane, flailing around in a series of episodic tangents that don't correlate into anything thematically coherent or even remotely funny. Every single one of these plot threads is unbearably depressing to witness, and sitting through them feels like the equivalent of drinking from a sour carton of eggnog that's been sitting outside of a refrigerator since last December.

The film takes place during the most implausibly long Christmas Eve since the Arnold Schwarzenegger bomb "Jingle All the Way." Diane Keaton and John Goodman star as Charlotte and Sam, a couple who are clearly facing marital struggles -- partially because Keaton, for whatever reason, didn't want to take a vacation to Africa that Goodman had his heart set on. Their two children are Hank (Ed Helms), a father who's been unemployed for an extended period of time, and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), who flirts with a soldier named Joe (Jake Lacy) in an airport bar before flying home to her parents. There's also Aunt Fishy (June Squibb), whose character revolves around one joke: Suffering from severe memory loss (hilarious).

Seemingly unrelated segments also revolve around Emma (Marissa Tomei) spending the day in the back of a cop car driven by the robust Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie) after getting caught shoplifting. And in the film's creepiest subplot, Bucky (Alan Arkin) is the manager of a small diner upset by the fact that his best waitress (Amanda Seyfried) is quitting. (These two share a connection that I assume is intended to come across as a strong friendship, but often feels like an old man trying to fuck a girl in her twenties.)

It's all narrated by Steve Martin, in one of the most condescendingly schmaltzy voice-overs in movie history. And while I can't spoil which character he's revealed to be in the film's final minutes, it's a twist that's so goddamn stupid I felt like I was having a stroke.

As one can expect, everyone comes together for a family dinner and mayhem ensues. This turkey isn't just overstuffed, though, it's utterly (ahem) foul. Despite the immensely talented cast, none of these characters are even remotely likable (save for Lacy's nice-guy Joe, who's the only conservative member of the bunch, speaking volumes about film's politics), and they all act as if they're from another planet. Everyone is a narcissistic, hysterically shrill caricature who reacts to everyday struggles of being human, as if they're in the midst of nuclear warfare. By the time the film reached its climactic set piece in a hospital, I nearly expected a third-act twist in which everyone was revealed to be a patient in a psychiatric ward, and that none of them were even related.

But even if this film was an over-the-top farce, the jokes aren't just lazy, they're offensively cynical. When one character is suspected of being gay, he denies the accusation, only to confirm that he is, but "...only in bed." Anyone outside of the predominantly white cast (often unnamed extras) are referred to by their ethnicity, and one drawn-out gag revolves around Goodman thinking a lyric in "Silent Night" is "brown young virgin." Towards the end of the film, another character believes she can literally "buy" redemption through purchasing the most expensive item in a store, which turns out to be a shower seat. I'd keep listing off examples, but I already threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Sloppily directed by Jessie Nelson with a shoddy script by Steven Rogers, "Love the Coopers" is the most grotesque Christmas film I've seen in ages, a lump of coal that not even the naughtiest of children deserve to find in their metaphorical stockings. Call me a Grinch, but I found this movie to have the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile.