Love The Coopers

Every family is dysfunctional to a degree, some more than others. The Coopers, Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton), a couple whose 40-year marriage has lost its energy, have a family with issues galore. Charlotte wants one more happy family Christmas celebration before they split.

Love, The Coopers is like an edgier Hallmark Christmas movie, with cast members who are better known. Like a Hallmark movie, things generally work out. Like a Hallmark movie, there are few non-white faces. Unlike a Hallmark movie, a few impolite phrases are uttered and bodily functions draw attention. But don’t worry: LTC is safely PG-13.

Cooper offspring include Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde). Hank’s marriage to Angie (Alex Borstein, best known as the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy) is breaking up. Among their three kids is son Charlie (Timothee Chalet) who is at that awkward age and is especially awkward at kissing.

Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is a flirty type who picks up cute serviceman Joe (Jack Lacy) at the airport and drags him to the family’s Christmas Eve dinner as her pretend boyfriend. Their verbal jousting (over political and religious differences) provides some of the film’s highlights.

Emma (Marisa Tomei) is Charlotte’s younger sister with whom a sibling rivalry persists. She is busted for shoplifting at the mall. She does some amateur counseling from the back seat of the patrol car for the quiet cop (Anthony Mackie), who opens up about his sexuality.

Guests at the Christmas dinner table also include Charlotte and Emma’s dad Bucky (Alan Arkin) and his favorite diner waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried). Also, an addled aunt played by June Squibb is more cute than funny. Narration for the story is by Steve Martin.

Love, The Coopers—I added the comma to indicate that it refers to a Christmas card signature, not a command—is a not unpleasant holiday film. But it’s not as touching as The Family Stone (which also starred Keaton) or It’s A Wonderful Life, not as funny as Christmas Vacation or the Santa Clause movies. I’d put it right around Christmas With The Kranks level in the Christmas movie rankings.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

If you like Steve Carrell, you’ll probably like The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. This movie is funny and it is fun. TIBW has several hilarious sight gags to go with a good group of well-cast characters.

Carrell and fellow Steve, Buscemi, play childhood friends who parlay their love of magic into a long running gig together in Vegas as Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton. But the act gets stale, egos inflate and they get sick of each other. When audiences disappear, it’s not an illusion.

Meanwhile, a street magician, played brilliantly by Jim Carrey, is creating huge buzz with his over-the-top stunts. As his star rises, Burt and Anton’s is fading. A desperation stunt by Burt and Anton ends badly and their partnership goes “poof!”

Burt’s redemption comes with help from Alan Arkin, a man who adds a spark to any movie he’s in. Arkin is an aging magician who helps Burt regain a passion for magic. The beautiful Olivia Wilde adds more than just eye candy in her role as a magician’s assistant who helps Burt regain some humility.

James Gandolfini is the oily casino boss who hires and fires Burt and Anton, then gives them a big opportunity for a comeback. And the rarely seen but talented Jay Mohr plays a likeable small-time wannabe Vegas magician.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is not what you would call a “laugh riot.” As with Carrell’s performance on The Office, some of the laughs delivered here are chuckles, not guffaws. But there’s plenty of fun in TIBW. If you’re looking for a pleasant amusement, my magic words are “go see it.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Words

A  good story told well and a memorable performance by Jeremy Irons make “The Words” a movie I recommend.

This is a story of plagiarism. It’s the story of the person who copied the words, the person whose words were copied and the person who shares the story with the world.

When Mike Brewer borrowed my freshman English term paper about a Nathaniel Hawthorne short story (“I just want to see how you did it, Dave”) and then copied it word for word, I was upset. But I got over it. When, in “The Words,” a misplaced manuscript becomes a best seller, the results have significant, long-term ramifications.

The stories in “The Words” are of three men played by Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Irons and how the words they write affects them. Three women played by Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana and Nora Arnezeder are also affected by those words.

Among the talented cast, Irons is especially effective as a grizzled old man who looks older than 64 (Irons’ age). Irons’ deliberate, low key recounting of things he lost in his younger days produces a performance that’s sure to nab award nominations. His voice—one of the most compelling this side of Morgan Freeman—is one that commands our rapt attention.

Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal co-wrote and co-directed “The Words.” They’ve assembled a movie that unfolds its story in a clever manner and gives a bit of depth to its three lead male characters. “The Words” is not a perfect movie, but it entertains nicely and has a structure that keeps the moviegoer involved throughout. Really, go see it.