Lowdown: Truth and reconciliation during Christmas.
Take an ensemble cast, cast them all as members of one family, add some tension, time at to around Christmas, and you have the basic formula behind The Family Stone. Does it work? Well, it's entertaining, but that doesn't mean it works.
The Stone family is a weird twist of everything in American society. There are loving parents (with Diane Keaton as the mother), sons, daughters, divorcees, grandparents, a gay son with a black partner - we're talking about a very liberal family here. Enter Sarah Jessica Parker as the would be fiance of one the sons, and she just happens to be a tight conservative woman. Clashes are due, tensions peaks, and all just in time for Christmas. Things get even more complicated when Parker's sister, Claire Danes, arrives to smooth things out; or does she?
Thing is, as you can probably tell, this is one of those films where you can tell exactly what is going to happen the second you see the opening credits. It's not only predictable, it's plain silly; the premises itself is rather unbelievable. Come on, how often have such a mix of family members in one family? Oh, you say, it's all just one big metaphor for American society, showing that we can all live happily ever after together in the spirit of Christmas. Oh, I say, pigs can really fly.
And then there's the acting that is way over the top. Diane Keaton has stopped delivering for a while now, but it's Jessica Parker that tops the charts with a display of acting that would look bad in something like The Bold and the Restless. The film's entertaining, though, in a bit of a masochistic kind of a way; I mean, at least you're not bored the way you would be when you watch the B&B.
Most annoying scene: The politically correct family, incorporating a gay couple, is having its holiday dinner together with the "ultra conservative" (to quote the DVD cover) Sarah Jessica Parker. Somehow the conversation gets to the gay son, and Parker asks whether the parents really wanted a gay son. The moment of stark seriousness is replaced with a moment of foolishness when the father answers by saying that they "believe" being gay is determined by the genes, and therefore the son had nothing to do with it and therefore cannot be blamed for being gay. Which left me annoyed, because what does "belief" have to do with it? Experiments with animals, for examples, show that in cases of over population (often in zoos), a significant portion of animals becomes gay - at a much higher ratio than their ancestors ever were. So, is it genetic? Maybe, but there are obviously other factors involved, and there is no need to "believe" something when we know it's not the whole truth.
I just hate it when reality is twisted in the name of political correctness. Personally, I don't see much wrong with someone being gay just because they like being gay.
Picture quality: This is an edge enhancement extravaganza! It's like they did a demo disc for digital artifacts.
Sound quality: While this is one of the quietest soundtracks around, it does have some few moments where the surround channels take you by surprise. Sadly, these are secluded moments.
Overall: Yet another merry-kiss-my-ass film, to quote a friend. Which goes to say it's somewhat entertaining yet overall redundant. 2 stars out of 5.