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Review: As a Christmas movie, 'Love the Coopers' is a lump of coal


Not every holiday-themed movie is a Christmas miracle. Many seem like gift paychecks to a cast doing their career's smallest work in Santa caps. And then there are inane lumps of coal like "Love the Coopers."

Tear-stained but upbeat, without being persuasive in either direction, this is the sort of trite kitsch-fest people see reluctantly out of duty to a visiting grandma.

An unseen narrator welcomes us to the upper-class New England home of Sam and Charlotte Cooper, played by John Goodman and Diane Keaton (changing her name since she played an identical matriarch 10 years ago in "The Family Stone"). Their postcard-pretty, commercially devout community celebrates Christmas largely as a sales gimmick for the mall.

"I want everyone to have the memory of a perfect Christmas," says high-strung Charlotte. Her relationship to milquetoast Sam has been torpedoed by a long-running fight over a missed getaway vacation. While this looks to her like the couple's last Christmas together, she hopes that ideal gift packages and cranberry sauce will make this final celebration a happy, smiling, singing run-up to their farewell.

The argumentative relatives and friends filling the manse are played by a thick scrum of co-stars (Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, June Squibb). Not one emerges as a clearly drawn, recognizably human character, though the actors have the ability to do that.

The film's worst stumble comes at the finale. In the year's least believable denouement, the narrator's identity is revealed, a character who could never have viewed a fraction of the stories described. "Love the Coopers" is gift-wrapped rubbish.