December 21, 2005 -- This very uneven film is a comedy-drama perched precariously on a razor-thin line between screwball comedy and melodrama. It fails to maintain this difficult balance and ends up plunging off one side or the other of this knife edge repeatedly. It has a number of colorful, but very inconsistent characters whose actions are at the mercy of an arbitrary plot.
Sarah Jessica Parker (“Sex in the City” TV series) tries gamely to rescue her uptight and extremely dislikable character, by giving it some measure of humanity, but never succeeds. Her character, Merdith Morton is an repulsive control-frek, motor-mouth lacking in social skills. Dermot Mulroney, a very likeable actor, is saddled with a character who has no charm, no personality and no intelligence for most of the film. He finally gets a chance to act in the film's final scenes. Diane Keaton gets the juiciest role in the film, playing a character with more than a single dimension. Luke Wilson is likeable as a stoner who alone somehow sees the inner beauty of Parker's character with some kind of sixth sense. He tells her, “You've got a freak flag. You just don't fly it.” Then there's the usual saintly gay couple, the pregnant earth-mother type, Morton's sister (Claire Danes) who arrives at the party for no real reason, the frustrated father, Kelly (Craig T. Nelson of “The Skulls”) and assorted hangers on.
The plot works itself up into a frenzy over very little substance, and winds up in a conclusion that still can't be belived after you've seen it. There is also some bad slapstick comedy which mixes poorly with the rest of the film. The movie does have its funny moments, however, and might have worked as a straight screwball comedy. The drama in the film is downright painful to watch, especially a scene around a family dinner table when Merdith Morton sticks her foot in her mouth in monumental fashion, causing an angry, hurtful uproar. There is also the added melodrama of a dying character in the film, which fits into the plot as smoothly as a piece from the wrong jigsaw puzzle.
This is a wildly uneven, poorly-written film without much entertainment value. The acting is fine, but most of the actors have precious little to work with. It will appeal to those who are seeking something different. It is definitely not good, but it is definitely different than most films set during the Christmas season. For some people, different is the equivalent of good enough. If you are one of those, have at it. This film rates a C.
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