The Family Stone review

So familiar and underwritten are the characters that blockbuster shorthand is employed. So, the Stones are cool because they have a gay, deaf son and play spirited charades in their PJs. Meredith's tailored suits and tight bun mark her out as a bitch despite Everett's sister's (McAdams) chief gripe with her being that she has an annoying cough. We're asked to blithely enjoy the comedy of the Stones' groundless bullying towards their guest, yet also applaud their dramatic condemnation of homophobia and bigotry. And, in true Hollywood tradition, Bezucha wants us to believe that a well-chosen pressie or a midnight dash in the snow can easily mend the deepest of rifts.

Tonally all over the place (slapstick sits beside maudlin drama) and as predictable as a bloated belly on Boxing Day, The Family Stone nevertheless manages to drape some tinsel over its family tree - the all-star cast breathing life into their slight roles and creating several magical moments of infectious joy and tenderness. It's a pleasure to watch the dynamic Keaton as boho matriarch Sybil - scenes between her and Craig T Nelson as her loving hubby providing bittersweet respite. Mulroney, too, injects real pathos into proceedings when he crumbles during a tête-à-tête with Keaton and, despite being absent for an entire chunk of the screenplay, McAdams is a little firebrand of enlivening bitchery. It's just a shame they weren't all given more to do.

An undemanding Christmas movie with all the trimmings - especially its commanding performances. No turkey but no cracker either.

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