The Family Stone

on December 16, 2005 by Tim Cogshell
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Everett (Dermot Mulroney) is the oldest son in a brood of upper-middle-class New England liberals, but his apple has fallen far from the tree. Think Alex P. Keaton from the old "Family Ties" series. He brings his uptight girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet the family for the holidays, and the usually affable Stones set out to make her life miserable.

The clan includes dad Kelly and mom Sybil (Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton), along with sundry family associates including Ben (Luke Wilson), a documentary filmmaker; Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser), a married mom with another on the way; Thad, who is gay and deaf and has a black boyfriend; and Amy (Rachel McAdams), the opinionated younger sister who despises Meredith and pits everyone against her. The hook in "The Family Stone" is that the family is actually quite likable. They're dysfunctional, but in a well-meaning way that makes room for love -- only not for the Meredith type.

So, the burden is on Meredith to try and fit in. To even the odds, she calls in her younger sister Julie (Claire Danes) for moral support. This is a rather obvious setup for another romance, and the film hints early on at an illness that you just know will play out in the weepiest of ways. Meanwhile, Everett is angling for the big-ass-diamond ring his grandmother promised him, which Sybil doesn't want to part with for the likes of a Meredith.

It's all fairly obvious and manipulative, though it manages to pander no more than average, and does contain a fair bit of wry humor and wit. The film also musters the wherewithal to reveal a few truths turned inward, which, while not exactly daring, does illustrate a more sophisticated take on the formula. Starring Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson and Luke Wilson. Directed and written by Thomas Bezucha. Produced by Michael London. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including dialogue, and drug references. Running time: 102 min

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