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by Willie Waffle

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The Family Stone

One of the hardest parts of reviewing a movie is when you can see the great potential a film has wasted or mismanaged. The Family Stone has a top notch cast, some good plots and a decent script, but the various parts don't come together to make a great movie. It's just a little below OK.

Dermot Mulroney stars as Everett - a man bringing his serious girlfriend, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), home for Christmas to meet the family. They are all open and relaxed, while Meredith is tightly wound and workaholic, so it's bound to be a difficult few days, especially since Everett's youngest sister, Amy (Rachel "A Raven Haired Vision of Lust" McAdams), already hates her. Of course, the rest of the family is not very pleased with Everett's choice in women, but something else is going on that has all of them a little more on edge than normal.

Can Meredith win over the family? Will this other issue cloud Christmas for the family Stone?

Every commercial I saw promoting the film in early December led me to believe it was a wacky holiday comedy in the spirit of Meet The Fockers or Christmas Vacation, but that's not the movie you get when you buy a ticket. Sometimes The Family Stone is hilarious, but, more often than not, it is a hard hitting drama. The movie is wonderful as a drama, and wonderful when a comedy, but when the drama and comedy scenes are placed side by side, The Family Stone is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie mish mash. I like steak, and I like ice cream, but I never put ice cream on my steak like writer/director Thomas Bezucha tries to do here.

Every time Bezucha seems like he has the movie heading in the right direction and gaining steam, he derails the film by changing tone abruptly. Luke Wilson lightens the mood as the spacey younger brother, Ben, who is convinced Meredith and Everett don't love each other, McAdams is marvelous as the bitchy younger sister who takes great pleasure in needling Meredith, and Diane Keaton puts in a moving performance as mother Sybil Stone, but the pieces don't quite fit together. Not only does the movie swing wildly from comedy to drama and back and forth, but so do plots, especially the relationship between Meredith and Everett. This leads to an uncomfortable feeling as the audience has to work too hard to figure out if we should laugh or cry, and Bezucha doesn't subtly move between the two.

Also, Bezucha has too many characters. Craig T. Nelson as father Kelly Stone is magnificent in his few scenes, but doesn't get enough to do. Another sister and her younger child are under foot much more than being part of the action and Bezucha tries to create a subplot about Amy that feels forced and unnecessary because it is not carried out correctly to elicit some laughs from the audience (it should be part of the feud between Meredith and Amy, but Bezucha doesn't use it for that enough). Eliminating the unneeded characters would give him more time to develop the subplots between Everett and Sybil, Meredith and Amy, Ben and everyone, and more.

The Family Stone is not a complete waste and has some wonderful funny and emotional moments, but it should have been two separate movies instead of one.

2 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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