I think I’ve proved enough times that. in my opinion, Christmas films are serious business. I know you can only really watch them for 1 month of the year (with a few major exceptions) but when they’re good then they’re just incredible. Add a bunch of Christmas spirit to the normal Hollywood sentimentality and you have a blend of heartwarming entertainment for all the family. Of course, with every passing year, new Christmas releases have become something to be feared instead of celebrated. This year sees the arrival of Office Christmas Party which looks dreadful. Despite that I still kind of want to see it because my love of Kate McKinnon knows no bounds. But you can’t help but get the feeling that Christmas films are just becoming super fucking lazy. However, there’s something about them that means great actors are willing to sign up for them. Which is the only reason I can really give for wanting to watch Christmas with the Coopers when I came across it on Netflix.
Christmas with the Coopers tells the story of an extended family on a stressful Christmas Eve. Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) are trying to prepare a huge meal for their children and their families, Charlotte’s sister and father, and Sam’s aunt. Each member of the Cooper clan is suffering from some sort of crisis that they are keeping from their family. The couple themselves are planning on separating after Christmas but they have neglected to inform their family of their problems. Their son Hank (Ed Helms) is going through a divorce, is looking for a new job, and is struggling to be a good dad. Their daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is failing to make good romantic choices so persuades a random soldier she meets at the airport to be pretend to be her boyfriend, Then there’s Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) who has spent her life jealous of her sister and manages to get herself arrested for shoplifting. Finally, Charlotte’s father (Alan Arkin) is weirdly attached to the waitress (Amanda Seyfried) at his favourite diner and randomly invites her to Christmas Dinner.
And, really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s stuff about a young boy and his first crush being unable to kiss. There’s a gay cop. A dog. It’s jam packed full of everything except the one thing it really needs: Christmas spirit. This tries so hard to create an uplifting ending but it does so by creating countless problems that it needs to solve. Most of the movie involves a large family of white people complaining about things that aren’t really problems in the first place. To say that the Cooper family are self-indulgent is a fucking huge understatement. The Coopers are the least dysfunctional dysfunctional family in the history of Hollywood.
There are some fun and cute moments littered throughout, though. Moments when the characters manage to do something that doesn’t make you cringe but, more often than not, these moments are imagined or distant memories, There is very little in the way of development for the majority of the characters. Things just happen without any details about how or why. Basically the characters start of one way and then end up as the opposite. It’s stupid. There’s so little thought put into who these people really are aside from a few lines of basic psychological guff that really doesn’t give you much to go on.
Christmas with the Coopers does what many modern Christmas films do: it underestimates what it takes to make a good Christmas film. It assumes that all you need is some trouble that eventually works itself out so people can come together and be happy. It take that to extremes and ensures that all drama ends with a super weird dance number at the end. Everything is supposed to be tied up in a neat little bow but it’s absurd how well everything turns out. It’s like a fucking Shakespearean comedy. Christmas with the Coopers boasts a fantastic cast but it lacks any kind of story, the script is mostly dreadful, the jokes are few, and the charm is mostly absent. This is a film that sacrifices any potential success for a sickly sweet ending that just doesn’t work. It’s not the worst Christmas film of all time but it’s in no way memorable.