The Family Stone (2005) opened to mixed reviews and small audiences and seemed destined to simply disappear over years. Yet its portrait of a warmly dysfunctional family Christmas has earned itself a following in the years since and is now embraced as a holiday movie tradition by many.
It’s all centered on a cheerfully uncensored, generically counter-culture clan. Enter prodigal son Everett (Dermot Mulroney) and his cartoonishly inhibited fiancée Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), a slow moving target for the mischievous brood. Tightly wound and socially awkward, Meredith makes it easy for them, while their chummy byplay makes it much harder for her. The slyly playful mom (Diane Keaton) scratches at the edges of her self-esteem and devilish little sister (Rachel McAdams) goes in for the kill. It’s up to perpetually blissed out little brother Ben (an engaging and affable Luke Wilson) to ease her down and mellow her out.
There’s a lot of love at first sight tossed in with the family melodrama (there’s an ailing parent), fish out of water comedy, and emotionally crossed wires. You’ll have no problem predicting any of it, even before Mercedes’ little sister (Claire Danes) steps off the bus and into certain romance.
The genial family chemistry provides the film’s minor charms. Writer and director Thomas Bezucha gives the good natured razzing and ricocheting remarks the feeling of shared history, and the actors seem more relaxed and natural as they bounce off one another. That’s part of what audiences relate to. The other part is the discomfort of the newcomer on the outside, unable to crack the exclusive club, feeling out place while trying to feel their way through social cues they don’t understand. And, of course, knowing that there’s a happy ending waiting at the end.
Tyrone Giordano, Brian White, Paul Schneider, and Elizabeth Reaser costar.
The DVD features cast and crew commentary, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a Q&A session with the cast at the Screen Actors Guild Theatre, a gag reel, and three featurettes.