A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this romantic comedy focuses on family tensions emerging when grown children come home for the Christmas holidays. Characters argue and pout; brothers fight, causing black eyes and cut cheeks. Characters drink at a bar, to the point that one passes out and doesn't remember how she ends up in her fiancé's brother's bed. One character is accused of racism, homophobia, and general "uptightness." While it's mainly comedic, the movie also includes a plot thread where a character is dying of cancer (brief glimpse of her mastectomy scar).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In THE FAMILY STONE, the liberal-leaning, proud Stones are upset when good boy Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings home a bad fiancée. Granted, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) doesn't mean to be bad. In fact, she tries very hard to be liked. But she's just tense, fretful, and sometimes ignorant, making her a target for the free-thinking Stones. The family includes parents Sybil (Diane Keaton) and Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), and the kids: deaf Thad (Tyrone Giordano) and his African American partner Patrick (Brian J. White), pregnant Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) and her charmingly brainy daughter Elizabeth (Savannah Stehlin), pot-smoking documentary filmmaker Ben (Luke Wilson), and the wittily "mean one," Amy (Rachel McAdams). Before such judges, every word Meredith speaks seems to indict her. Only Ben supports her. He encourages her: "You have the freak flag, you just don't fly it." Flying that flag will prove Meredith's salvation.
Is it any good?
Thomas Bezucha's film means well and offers fine performances, but is in the end tripped up by holiday-family-gathering movie clichés. The point of The Family Stone isn't really measuring up, though this is, of course, the presumption of Christmas-family-gathering movies.
While it provides pleasurable moments (Susannah watching Judy Garland sing in Meet Me in St. Louis on TV, Brad finding the perfect gift for Amy), The Family Stone is, finally, less brave than Meredith, resorting at last to cookie-cutter resolutions like slapsticky fights and everyone's-happy couplings.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the family relationships. How do the kids' behaviors resemble their parents'? How do the Stones come to see their presumed open-mindedness as insular and judgmental? How might Meredith's transformation from tense to sociable (here pushed along by a night of drinking), be achieved in a less stereotypical way?
- In theaters: December 16, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: May 2, 2006
- Cast: Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker
- Director: Thomas Bezucha
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual content including dialogue, and drug references.
For kids who love romance
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