Most helpful critical review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2010
Meredith is a staunch conservative who is pretty much engaged to Everett Stone, a great man with a dysfunctional family. When Meredith meets the Stone family, we see she has reason to be uptight: the majority of them are snarky and obnoxious, not to mention nauseatingly politically correct. One of the sons is deaf and gay, attached to a deaf and gay black man (sorry, can't remember all the names). Rachel McAdams plays the worst family member of all, an obnoxious and gossiping redhead with a crude personality to boot. Diane Keaton's character, the mother, appeared in previews to be sweet and easygoing, if a little too enabling. Turns out, she's not: she's just as bitchy and immature as her constantly PMS-ing red-headed daughter. The only difference is that she smiles sweetly when gossiping and verbally slashing another person to bits. An enabler, however, she is to the extreme.
Luckily, there are some more gentle members of this nightmare liberal-mania family: the father is far more grounded than his wife, brother Ben Stone is loopy but very friendly, the black son-in-law is far more patient than his anal-retentive partner, there is a very sweet dark-haired daughter (expecting her second child), and Everett, the main one who's dating the uptight Meredith, is a great down-to-earth man who actually has enough spine to tell off his family more than once when they take their snarkiness out on his girlfriend. Seriously, this kind of manliness is missing in a lot of shows and films!
I admit, I really did not buy the whole "obnoxious family is really loving and accepting" schlock, especially when you add the poor, put upon deaf gay son to boot. Once you get to know the family, however, and see them with BOTH their faults and their redeeming qualities, they become more realistic. Plus, they are NOT allowed to get away with everything. Everett, unlike several weak and enabling male "heroes", does not stand by and allow his family to get away with backbiting, nor does the film slip into a "liberals good, conservatives bad" trap, which would have been remarkably easy to do. Rather than coming out as the heroic "open-minded" family they think they are, they're actually taken to task for their actions: after they openly gang up on Meredith when she clumsily asks politically incorrect questions about the gay couple, they actually realize their mistake and go out of their way to try and apologize to her, including staying up late and worrying when she doesn't come home. Meredith herself is no doormat either: rather than being converted to easy-going liberal-ness and admitting the error of her ways, she tells off the family herself in more than one scene and never takes back her personal feelings or convictions on certain matters. The film very much impressed me with its fairness to both sides of the different characters, as well as the assertiveness given to the lead characters. Plus, it turns out there are deeper issues involved: Diane Keaton's character, the mother, is very sick and worries over what will happen to her family, which explains part of her anger and resentment. The family's vulnerable side was slowly revealed throughout the film, and the empathy and personal struggle for each character transferred the film from potential lopsided comedy to a film of deep family matters.
All in all, the film was going splendidly in every way..until the end. If you can believe it, the movie actually did a boyfriend/girlfriend swap, separating Everett and Meredith. Around the middle of the film, Meredith's sister Julie arrives, to help her out. After the initial interaction between Meredith's free-for-all happy sis and the family's adoration of her, of course, it becomes apparent Julie really has no place whatsoever in the story except to take Everett from Meredith. And who does Meredith end up with? Ben Stone, the goofy brother, of all people. Ahh..no. No, no! Everett and Julie I can almost buy, but Ben and Meredith? That match is so bad, it gives me a reaction almost as bad as the one I have when colors clash: ickk! Of all ridiculous, random things! And no, nobody steals anyone's man; Julie isn't heartless. The mis-matches happen "naturally" and everyone's satisfied at the end, after the initial mess that ensues after Meredith's PC faux pas disaster at the dinner table (after she flees is when the mis-matches begin to fall into place).
The switching of couples is what stole this movie's five-star rating for me; other than this baaad, bad move, the movie's actually pretty darn good. The Stone's are realistically revealed as a good family, who learns to accept a very different person and even ask forgiveness from her when they wrong her, while she likewise learns to adapt to and care for them. All the other conflicts resolved to my perfect satisfaction, and the ending had me almost reaching for a tissue. Be prepared for a tragic touch at the end.