We value your support now more than ever.

All year we’ve been covering the issues that matter most to you—the pandemic, the election, policing, housing, and more—and now our end of year membership campaign is here. Will you support our work to ensure we can bring you the same informative local reporting in 2021?

In The Family Stone, a girlfriend who becomes desperate to please her beau’s family gets some advice from his brother: “Maybe you should stop. Just stop. It’s exhausting.” The same should have been said to writer-director Thomas Bezucha (Big Eden), whose sophomore effort is a Meet the Parents retread with the kind of giant, kooky-but-loving brood without which holiday comedies wouldn’t exist. Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) is spending Christmas with Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) and her potential in-laws, whom she’s never met. She’s introduced as a take-charge businesswoman, bellowing on her cell while negotiating a crowded department store and Christmas shopping with Everett. On the ride to his folks’ house, however, she shows some cracks in that confidence, even admitting to a nervousness only a handful of Xanax can calm. So far, so predictable. But once the couple reaches the Stone family manse, where everyone except Everett’s cranky sister Amy (Rachel McAdams) greets Meredith warmly, our heroine morphs into someone else entirely: a tightly pursed freak who barely manages her “hello”s and in general has the demeanor of either (a) a padded-cell-worthy social phobic or (b) a high-society bitch who finds mingling with the commoners extremely distasteful. The affectionate, liberal, open-minded Stone family—you know they’re all three because they cup each other’s faces and another brother, Thad (Ty Giordano), is deaf, gay, and has a black lover, Patrick (Brian White)—assumes it’s the latter. Convenient and completely unbelievable cycles of nice and nasty ensue to ensure maximum conflict: Meredith wonders why everyone hates her; Everett, who wants to propose, otherwise acts very much out of love; and the rest of the clan turns icy. (And when you piss off Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson, who play the easygoing parents, you know you’re an awful person.) As the characterizations and plot spin further out of control, the only consistency—besides tediously enforced wackiness—is the way McAdams’ Amy and Luke Wilson’s stoner bro Ben manage to provide the movie’s few laughs. Of course, there are also the ridiculous last-chapter surprises—but those will have you slapping your forehead, not your knee. —Tricia Olszewski