Given enough time, “The Family Stone” can be a holiday classic. What’s interesting about Bazucha’s script is that “The Family Stone” is a title indicative of two aspects of the film, two aspects that have to be watched to be understood, but his debut film is a truly good dramedy that many people will enjoy. I was really looking forward to this film, but in my wildest dreams I never expected it to click with me as it did. During certain scenes I found myself completely engrossed in to the events, and teary during the truly emotional sequences. This film can be laugh out loud funny, and it can be heartbreaking.
Everett’s new wife is coming home with him to meet his family, and she’s nervous. The Stone’s are a very tight knit family of liberals whom are weary to welcome anyone new to their abode, especially with some interesting developments within the family. Though, Bazucha’s film is yet another take on the “Meet the Parents” formula, his is very superior because of the fact that his relies on actual characterization instead of cheap gags and gimmicks. But one reason why his is superior is due to the utterly incomparable talent presented to the audience. There’s such a great cast to swoon over, it’s really difficult not to like it. Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton are excellent as the leaders of the family who hold their children in close quarters and guide them with a firm hand. Keaton as the independent activist, and Nelson as the wise soul really do help this film fly off the ground. Also, Luke Wilson is great as Ben, the slacker brother who I was afraid would be just a cliché but really broke out from that archetype.
And Dermot Mulroney is great as the oldest Everett who brings home his girlfriend and makes discoveries about his own life in the process. The family is written with a fluid motion including very good dialogue, quirks, and rituals that Bazucha keeps a consistent thread of throughout the story, thus making them feel like a real family. Meredith’s rival, the young and spunky little sister Amy, is one of the better written characters. McAdams plays her character as a take off from Keaton’s own personality, making the mother daughter dynamic more genuine. McAdams steals the show often, and is at her best when playing off other actors. She refuses to budge, even at the insistence of her other family. Elizabeth Reaser has a bittersweet sub-plot involving her daughter and her husband who spends a long time away from home.
The best sub-plot though involves the deaf brother Thad and his boyfriend with their attempts to adopt a baby. The family’s welcoming of their relationship, and their adapting to his disability makes the chemistry in the household utterly rich with sub-text and emotion. Often while the characters are talking, you can see them signing without even realizing, to help Thad follow along with them, and Thomas Giordano’s performance is strong. “The Family Stone” is about many things, mostly about moving on in life in the face of drastic change, and is never afraid to be dark. Bazucha’s shift from sappy comedy to gut-wrenching drama is gladly balanced, and the film excels thanks to rich writing. Much of Bazucha’s film would have remained complete quality had the film not resorted to cheap physical comedy.
All of the physical comedy is much too forced to be considered funny here, and is oddly out of place for a movie about a tight knit family coming to grips with their lives. Everyone in this falls at least once, whether it’s the adorable Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Sarah Jessica Parker–the list goes on folks. By the second half it becomes much too clogged with attempted physical takes in exchange of actual dialogue, and none of it ever seemed to fit with the actual film we’d finished watching. Bazucha gets too wrapped up in forcing laughs from the audience when the movie had already been pretty funny and sweet. It’s a cheap gimmick unnecessarily used to an obscene degree. In spite of being too reliant on physical comedy for the second half of the story, “The Family Stone” is a very good drama comedy about family, life, and moving forward in the face of life changing events. With a top-notch cast, excellent writing and a sweet story, it will be hard not to enjoy this. I loved it.