The Family Tree


It's always the quiet ones...

It’s always the quiet ones…

(2011) Dramedy (EntertainmentOne) Dermot Mulroney, Hope Davis, Chi McBride, Max Thieriot, Britt Robertson, Selma Blair, Keith Carradine, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, Gabrielle Anwar, Rachel Leigh Cook, Jane Seymour, Christina Hendricks, John Patrick Amedori, Evan Ross, Madeline Zima, Evan Handler, Pamela Shaw, Hannah Hodson, Ally Maki. Directed by Vivi Friedman

When you look at your neighbors, what do you see? Upstanding church-going citizens? Kinky fetishists? Hard-charging workaholics? Bratty snot-nosed teens? Or all of the above?

In the world of Serenity, Ohio, the last answer would be appropriate. Bunnie Burnett (Davis) is an offensive shrew who rules her family through her sharp tongue and sadistic sensibilities. Her husband Jack (Mulroney) seems meek and inoffensive on the outside but years of being browbeaten has worn him down, turning him into a quaking philanderer after years of being refused sex by his wife. She would no doubt emasculate him if she knew but the truth is she’s far too busy engaging in role-playing games with their neighbor Simon Krebs (McBride) to do much investigating.

Her children aren’t much better. 17-year-old daughter Kelly (Robertson) is promiscuous and foul-tempered – she is well along the road of becoming her own mother although if you pointed it out to her you’d probably get kicked in a very sensitive portion of your anatomy. Kelly’s twin brother Eric (Thieriot) has fallen under the sway of pot-smoking gun-toting preacher Reverend Diggs (Carradine) who talks tough on the outside but on the inside…well he’s just an idiot.

During a particularly rough game of home invasion/rape fantasy with Simon, Bunnie is accidentally dealt a particularly severe whack on the head (Simon flees, leaving Bunnie to be discovered by her family) which leaves her with an unusual amnesia in which all her memories after the first year of her marriage have disappeared. Once again, Bunnie is the woman that Jack fell in love with. It’s an opportunity for the whole family to start fresh. The trouble is, the other lunatics in Serenity may not necessarily let them.

This is supposed to be a black comedy. Now, I understand that in such enterprises that a certain amount of cynicism should be expected and even appreciated. HOWEVER, the fact that every…single…character has some sort of dark side or sexual secret gets old really fast. You find yourself having nobody to really hang your hat on – everybody here is basically a douche, although some find at least a measure of redemption by the closing credits. For the most part even Jack who’s perhaps the closest thing to a truly nice character still cheats on his wife – deservedly or not. Not that I’m a prude nor do I need my lead characters to be too good to be true (in fact, some comedies go too far the other way). I just need my characters to act like PEOPLE and not CHARACTERS. How many characters do you run into every day when you walk out the door of your house (and I’m not talking about the ones at the multiplex) – I’m betting none. I can’t find too funny a comedy in which I identify with nobody.

Which is a shame because there are a lot of really talented actors involved as you can read from the cast list. Mulroney, who some might remember from My Best Friend’s Wedding has some decent screen presence and Davis is one of those actresses who has tons of talent but doesn’t get the roles these days that she is worthy of. Most of the rest of the cast – particularly Blair, Seymour, McBride, Carradine and Hendricks are either wasted in scarcely developed roles or appear in little more than a glorified cameo.

I like the concept here of a dysfunctional family given an unexpected second chance to be a family. I just wish they’d tried for a simpler approach and eliminated a lot of the extraneous characters who are just that – characters – that detract from the film overall and turn it from the satirical comedy it could have been into a wooden, leaden blunt instrument without the finesse to really capture my attention – or my laughter.

WHY RENT THIS: A somewhat satirical look at family and community dynamics. Nice opportunity to play “spot the character actor.”

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Muddled and scattered. A little bit too mean-spirited for my taste.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s sex, violence, bad language (a whole lot of it) and some drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film received its world premiere at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There are some on-set home movies.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $6,035 on an unreported production budget; no way in Hell this made money.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Family Time

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Monsters University

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New Releases for the Week of April 22, 2011


April 22, 2011
Disney nerd reference ahead: Everybody, everybody, everybody wants to be a cat…

AFRICAN CATS

(DisneyNature) Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey

The makers of Earth, the first DisneyNature documentary return with a slightly narrower focus. This time, they turn their cameras on two families – one of lions, one of cheetahs and both struggling to survive on the African savannah. For all those who buy tickets during the first week of release for the movie, Disney is going to donate 20 cents for every ticket sold that first week to the African Wildlife Foundation, an organization dedicating to preserving the savannah and protect the inhabits thereof.  

See the trailer, clips, featurettes and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard. 3D

Genre: Nature Documentary

Rating: G

Super

(IFC Midnight) Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler. When his wife leads him for a psychotic drug dealer, Frank goes a little bit crazy and determines to become a costumed crime fighter and thus the Crimson Bolt is born. Soon his exploits attract the public’s imagination with unexpected results.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Superhero Comedy

Rating: NR

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family

(Lionsgate) Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Bow Wow, Isaiah Mustafa. When Madea’s niece receives some distressing news about her health, she wants to break it to her children in her own way. However her kids are too wrapped up in their own problems to pay attention to the crisis their mother is undergoing. In charges Madea to gather the family together and unite them in support of their stricken member.

See the trailer and the full movie here (available for online streaming at Amazon) here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: PG-13 (for drug content, language and some mature thematic material)

Water for Elephants

(20th Century Fox) Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, Hal Holbrook. Based on the best-selling novel, a penniless veterinary student arrives at a two-bit travelling circus during the Depression to use his skills to tend to their animals. He becomes enamored of the wife of the sadistic and cruel ringmaster, leading to tragic consequences.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for moments of intense violence and sexual content)

New Releases for the Week of August 20, 2010


August 20, 2010

Emma Thompson has a message for the critics.

NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS

(Universal) Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rhys Ifans, Maggie Smith, Ewan McGregor, Ralph Fiennes, Asa Butterfield, Lil Woods, Oscar Steer, Eros Vlahos. Directed by Susanna White

The sequel to the surprisingly charming Nanny McPhee returns Oscar-winning actress to the role of the magical nanny who appears when she is needed most and wanted the least, this time with an entirely new family in an entirely different era. She must help a rural family and their posh city cousins get along, and along the way help them learn to work together to save the family farm. As there has been only Ramona and Beezus and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore to fill the family film market void since Despicable Me, this should do very well even if it’s only halfway decent.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements)

Get Low

(Sony Classics) Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black. A curmudgeonly hermit in a small Appalachian town during the Great Depression decides that he doesn’t want to miss his own funeral – who knows what is going to be said about him when he’s not around to defend himself – so he arranges with an unscrupulous funeral home director to throw a funeral for himself while he’s still alive. At the funeral, he determines to reveal a secret that will change the lives of those who live in that town for good.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for some thematic material and brief violent content)

Lottery Ticket

(Warner Brothers) Bow Wow, Ice Cube, Loretta Devine, Bill Bellamy. A neighborhood in the projects is turned upside down when a young man buys a winning lottery ticket worth $370 million. He will have to find away to keep it from larcenous and sometimes underhanded  and even threatening neighbors over the course of a three-day holiday weekend in order to claim his winnings.

See the trailer and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, language including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking)

Piranha 3D

(Dimension) Jessica Szohr, Richard Dreyfuss, Elisabeth Shue, Jerry O’Connell. The residents and visitors of a small town of Lake Victoria that is also a spring break magnet must find a way not to become chum when a tremor unleashes some prehistoric piranha. Here’s some advice; if you don’t want to get eaten, don’t go swimming!!!!

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: 3D

Rating: R (for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use)

The Switch

(Miramax) Jennifer Anniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum. When Kassie, a hip New York single woman, hears her biological clock ticking down, she decides to have a baby anyway despite the objections of her neurotic best friend. While at a party to celebrate Kassie’s impending motherhood, the sperm donor’s contribution is accidentally lost, forcing the best friend to substitute his own, something he keeps hidden from Kassie for seven years when the progeny of the insemination begins to show character traits disturbingly similar to the neurotic best friend.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language)

Vampires Suck

(20th Century Fox) Matt Lanter, Emily Brobst, Ken Jeong, Jenn Proske. A young woman must decide between two boys – one of whom is a vampire, the other a werewolf – and looking incredibly stupid. She picks option “C.”

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for crude sexual content, comic violence, language and teen partying)