Its first words are “Love, the Coopers”—signing off a Christmas card. But the title is minus that comma: Love the Coopers is a come-on, even a demand, as if we’ve got no choice. And with its relationships-on-the-icy-skids drama, usually cheap comedy, warm-your-heart’s-cockles flashbacks, incessant carolling and kissing, and rabid bring-everyone-togetherness, this movie’s about as subtle in its efforts to light up the family hearth as your drunk-on-hot-toddy Dad, only half-dressed as Santa, tottering in front of the fireplace with an acetylene torch.
A constantly irritating voiceover unites Clan Cooper—dad Sam (John Goodman), mom Charlotte (Diane Keaton), sister Emma (Marisa Tomei), daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) and son Hank (Ed Helms), etc—for our Yuletidy viewing pleasure. Sam and Charlotte’s marriage seems kaput, Eleanor’s unmarried and Hank’s recently divorced … but almost everyone will find someone again and dance happily together by movie’s end, this shiny, perfect present wrapped up with a red velvet bow. Plus lots of YouTube-inspired shots of cute-widdle little ones—kids and dogs—up to adorable mischief and plenty more Xmas scenes. And from the mall to the Coopers’ Crate & Barrel showroom of a house (with designer kitchen!), nearly every scene looks like a TV ad for Christmas.
Pretending to be about a real family struggling to be together, Love the Coopers is actually just lots of photogenic folks serving up white whine, usually weak laughs (a fart joke at the dinner table) or suddenly candid chats with strangers. The Hollywood contrivances are cringing: Eleanor conscripts a guy she meets at the airport to play her boyfriend for the evening; Charlotte and Emma are supposed to be sisters, though Keaton is Tomei’s senior by almost 19 years. This movie’s so dundering in its efforts to melt your heart to slush that, to show someone’s anguish, said person actually CGI-freezes then shatters, or a granddad will see the magical memory of their little child appear before them. And that voiceover, the one offering such lines as “Alas, the walls built up around her heart … “? Turns out it’s the family dog, Rags (Steve Martin), that’s been leading us along all this time. Bow-wow.
Directed by Jessie Nelson