They used to slow dance to Bob Dylan, when the kids went to bed. Now they just tread clumsily on each others’ dreams. Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton) are the typical baby boomers, who apparently have it all. Forty years on, however, the Coopers are about to split up, but shush, please keep it a secret until after the holidays.
Charlotte wants a big traditional family Christmas, before they tell the aforementioned kids, now dysfunctional adults, that all is not happy in the home. Add to that a talking dog, a slobbery and ravenous big St Bernard, Rags, voiced by Steve Martin, lots of seasonal schmaltz, an airport snowed in for Christmas, a surfeit of snow globes, new-borns in Christmas hats and a sterling cast and it sounds like a no-brainer for festive fun. Unfortunately it is a no-brainer, but not in a good way.
Given that Keaton’s seminal moment was in Annie Hall, just voted funniest ever screenplay, I had high expectations, especially with a cracking soundtrack ranging from Fleet Foxes to Otis Redding, as well as Dylan. Then I asked myself why Steve Martin was voicing a dog and why director Jessie Nelson thinks she’s directing It’s a Wonderful Life.
Some of it does work, especially John Goodman, whose comic and tragic timing is as spot-on as ever, but it’s got so many twists and turns, flashbacks and family faults, it’s more exhausting than exhilarating. Other top cast members include Alan Arkin and Amanda Seyfried, who looks like she’s playing puzzled for real as a diner waitress, who wonders why she’s wasting her life.
It has the traditional girl picks up man in uniform at snowed-in airport and takes him home as her boyfriend scenario, which has a few inherent laughs, but when their politics don’t coincide, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) and handsome GI Joe (Jake Lacy) look set to have a falling-out before they ever fall in. There is also an emotionally conflicted cop, but not enough time to unravel this strand.
The bright spot is that the Coopers reassure you as to your own family’s failings; definitely add a box of popcorn for this one.
by Liz Kennedy Christmas with the Coopers (107 minutes) is a certificate 12 A.