DVD Release Date:  May 2, 2006
Theatrical Release Date:  December 16, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (some sexual content including dialogue, and drug references)
Genre:  Comedy/Drama/Romance
Run Time:  102 min.
Director:  Thomas Bezucha
Actors:  Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Claire Danes, Craig T. Nelson, Rachel McAdams

Sarah Jessica Parker is back.  Fresh from her HBO run in “Sex in the City,” she’s on the big screen now.  And this time, although her character certainly differs from the quirky Carrie Bradshaw, one might be tempted to call this film “Sex in the Suburbs.”

Meredith Morton (Parker) just wants to make a good impression.  So when she goes to the ’burbs with her boyfriend, Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney, “Must Love Dogs”) to meet and spend the holidays with his family, she’s naturally a little nervous.  But what neither she nor Everett realize is how very judgmental the Stones can be – and this, despite their oh-so-progressive attitudes toward casual sex, homosexuality and drug use.  As a result, Meredith walks into the proverbial hornet’s nest.

The Stones are not entirely to blame.  Meredith is about as warm as the snow that blankets the neighborhood this Christmas season, and doesn’t seem to even want to loosen up.  She refuses to sleep with Everett in his room, which forces his poisoned-tongue sister, Amy (Rachel McAdams“The Notebook”) out of her room and onto the couch.  Everett’s mother, Sybil (Diane Keaton, “Something’s Gotta Give”) ridicules this thinking, which has nothing to do with concerns over premarital sex (Meredith and Everett are clearly doing that).  It’s just “manners,” according to Meredith, who is so stiff that the family soon takes to calling her “The Bedford -----” (rhymes with “witch”).  For some strange reason, however, Meredith’s proper upbringing doesn’t prevent her from making social faux pas after faux pas.

What starts off as a drama soon transforms into romantic comedy when Meredith invites her sister Julie (Claire Danes, “Shopgirl”) to join her.  After a disastrous dinner, she disappears and gets drunk, forcing Julie and Everett to go searching for her – which they don’t seem to mind one bit.  Meanwhile, Meredith is getting stoned with Everett’s brother, Ben (Luke Wilson, “Alex and Emma”), who has a crush on her and apparently no qualms about moving in on his brother’s soon-to-be fiancé.

Is “The Family Stone” a drama?  A comedy?  Or a romantic comedy?  Hard to tell, because there are elements of all these genres, – which can work, if mixed well.  Unfortunately, however, they do not mesh well together here.  The first third of the movie is serious, while during the middle, characters fall in love instantaneously, fake-fight and fall all over the kitchen floor.  By the end, we’re back to tear-jerking drama.  It’s too bad, really, because it started off with promise. 

The main problem is lack of depth.  I really wanted to know why Meredith was so cold and uptight, and I wanted her to deal with her issues, but this never happened.  As a result, her character lacks credibility.  It’s a problem with all the characters in the film, who are not so much stereotypical as they are superficial.  This causes problems with the plot, as well.  We don’t get any background on anyone.  Meredith and Julie don’t call home to wish their parents “Merry Christmas” – er, “Happy Holidays,” since this film is very PC.  We never hear about grandparents, meet any neighbors or friends, and except for Julie, nobody talks about their jobs.