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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Thomas Bezucha
Cast:
Sarah Jessica Parker, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Ty Giordano, Rachel McAdams, Luke Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Brian White, Savannah Stehlin, Claire Danes
Writing Credits:
Thomas Bezucha

Tagline:
Feel The Love.

Synopsis:
Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, and Rachel McAdams lead an all-star cast in The Family Stone. Join the eccentric Stone family for a holiday gathering filled with unexpected surprises. Before the festivities are over, love affairs will unravel, new ones will form, outrageous secrets will be revealed and the family will come together like never before.

Box Office:
Budget
$17 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.521 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$60.061 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 5/2/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Thomas Bezucha, Producer Michael London, Editor Jeffrey Ford and Production Designer Jane Ann Stewart
• Six Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents ‘Casting Session’” Featurette
• “Fox Movie Channel Presents ‘World Premiere’” Featurette
• “October 5, 2005: Q&A with Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Theater”
• “Behind the Scenes” Featurette
• Gag Reel
• “Meredith’s Strata” Recipe
• Trailers


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Family Stone (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 14, 2006)

When I viewed the previews for 2005’s The Family Stone, I immediately identified it as a film I didn’t long to screen. Its reviews supported this feeling and I actively avoided the film as though I'd catch beriberi from it.

So why did I choose to sit down with this DVD? Lazy Sunday with not much else to do, self-loathing and masochism – you choose the reason or simply mix and match.

Whatever the case, I did subject myself to Stone. We meet conservative New York businesswoman Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker). Her serious boyfriend Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) takes her to meet his clan over Christmas. A tight-knit, lovey-dovey New England family, they include patriarch Kelly (Craig T. Nelson), mother Sybil (Diane Keaton), and siblings Thad (Ty Giordano), Amy (Rachel McAdams), Ben (Luke Wilson) and Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser). We also encounter Thad’s boyfriend Patrick (Brian White) and Susannah’s young daughter Elizabeth (Savannah Stehlin).

Inevitably, the loosey-goosey group instantly dislikes Meredith – except for Ben, who clearly digs her. Various tensions emerge that include Sybil’s refusal to let Everett propose to Meredith with his grandmother’s ring. A distraught Meredith brings in her sister Julie (Claire Danes) for support, and that causes more problems when Everett falls for her. Add to this Sybil’s cancer and many complications ensue.

Here’s all you need to know to appreciate this film’s worldview: Thad is gay and hearing-impaired, while his partner Patrick is black. In no way should my comments be construed as a criticism of anyone who is gay, hearing-impaired, and/or black. Knock yourself out, I always say.

On the other hand, any film that features characters such as these badly wants to make a point. Stone wears its politics on its sleeve. It doesn’t simply include characters who are a little outside of the mainstream; it blasts apart the mainstream to create personalities so unusual that they become bizarre. Really – it’s not enough to offer a gay couple? The film needed to go that extra mile and make them interracial with one of them disabled?

I’m a pretty liberal guy – though I live in a “red state”, I don’t go that way - but I can’t stand preaching of any form. That’s Stone’s greatest sin. Why is it that whenever movies depict “tolerant” people, they inevitably find it impossible to tolerate anyone less tolerant than they? Sure, the Stones eventually display marginal regret for their cruel treatment of Meredith, but this comes across as a token gesture at best.

Instead, Stone prefers to maintain a highly condescending attitude toward anyone who doesn’t share its worldview. Although it loosens her up as it goes – due to booze, natch – the film makes out Meredith to be an unpleasant character. Just examine our initial take on her appearance. With her severe, drab suit and her tight hair bun, Meredith seems so tightly wound that she’ll soon explode.

Personal characteristics display no additional subtlety. It makes her borderline racist and homophobic, and Parker’s performance doesn’t help. She plays Meredith as either cold and clueless or just plain stupid. Add to that Mulroney’s take on Everett as seething potential psychopath and they become the couple from hell.

Stone would have been much more interesting and tolerable if it viewed things from Meredith’s point of view. Sure, that’s been done before, but at least matters wouldn’t seem so unpalatable. Of course, the filmmakers don’t want us to view things through Meredith’s eyes because then it couldn’t condemn her so easily.

The Family Stone wastes a fairly strong cast with its inane tripe. It mixes mushy romance with sappy pathos and the occasional outburst of wacky slapstick. Stir it together and you create an exceedingly unlikable and sickening batch of unbearable melodrama.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

The Family Stone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. This was a decent transfer but not one that seemed up to par for a recent film.

A few concerns connected to sharpness occurred. At times the movie became a bit soft and indistinct. However, it usually remained reasonably concise and accurate. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, but a little edge enhancement occurred. Source flaws never appeared during this clean transfer.

Colors looked natural but subdued. The movie favored the slightest hint of stylization, as it went for moderately golden tones. Within that realm, the hues were lively and warm. Blacks seemed too deep and dense, as they lacked detail. Shadows were also a bit tough to discern due to the thickness of the dark tones. Neither problem was severe, but I thought the movie seemed somewhat too dim. This meant the visuals ended up with a “C+”.

Given the subject matter, I anticipated little from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Family Stone, and the mix matched my expectations. The soundscape usually remained modest and focused on gentle environmental information. Not much activity emerged from this subdued piece, and I thought it came across as a little too “speaker-specific”. Elements stayed in their areas without the smoothness I’d expect, as they didn’t blend together well. The surrounds lacked much involvement and never stood out as anything noticeable. A bar sequence was the liveliest due to music, but even it didn’t go much of anywhere.

Audio quality was positive. Speech seemed natural and crisp, with no edginess. Effects were clean and accurate, while music sounded smooth and concise. Low-end response was perfectly adequate. This was a more than acceptable mix for a low-key movie.

Quite an extensive roster of extras rounds out the DVD. We open with two separate audio commentaries. The first presents actors Sarah Jessica Parker and Dermot Mulroney, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. Early on, Parker states that “this commentary’s gonna be helpful to no one”. Rarely have truer words been spoken, as this is a truly useless commentary.

At times the actors tell us a little about the shoot. We learn about cold days and a few other very minor nuggets. Virtually none of this seems informative or interesting. Instead, Parker giggles a lot while Mulroney spouts double entendres about Parker’s “bun”. Tons of dead air occurs, but even when they speak, they tell us nothing. Even if you loved the film – or perhaps especially if you loved the film – skip this worthless waste of 103 minutes.

For the second commentary, we get details from writer/director Thomas Bezucha, producer Michael London, editor Jeffrey Ford and production designer Jane Ann Stewart. All four sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. While not a classic, this piece certainly offers a lot more good details than its predecessor.

A mix of expected topics appear. We hear about the story, characters, and cut sequences, locations, the house set and production design elements, the movie’s color palette and other visual concerns, cast and performances, real life influences and general production material. These offer a reasonably good overview of the various issues.

One major complaint: the ridiculous amount of praise on display. From start to finish, we hear incessant remarks about how much everyone loves everything involved with the flick. Even if I liked Stone, I’d have gotten sick of the never-ending happy talk. Those elements mar the commentary, but it includes enough worthwhile material to merit a listen.

Six Deleted Scenes last a total of five minutes, 38 seconds. As you can tell by the running times, we don’t find a lot of content here. Each adds a smidgen of character information but not enough to add much to the film. We can watch these with or without commentary from Bezucha and Ford. They give us a few notes about the scenes and let us know why they cut all of them. Their remarks are helpful,

Two Fox Movie Channel featurettes ensue. Casting Session runs eight minutes, two seconds and shows the usual mix of movie clips, behind the scenes bits, and interviews. We hear from London, Bezucha, Parker, actors Luke Wilson and Diane Keaton, and casting director Mindy Marin. They provide a few basic plot notes and tell us how much trouble the film had it coming to the screen. Then they tell us a little about casting, rehearsals and performances. This show essentially exists as a promotional piece, but it’s breezy and gives us a mix of nice insights.

Called World Premiere, the second featurette lasts six minutes, six seconds. Logically shot outside the movie’s premiere, it features “red carpet” statements from Keaton, London, Bezucha, Parker, Mulroney, and actors Brian White, Ty Giordano, Craig T. Nelson, and Elizabeth Reaser. They spew of fluffy talk and don’t provide any insights. However, it’s a hoot to see Nelson’s bizarre receding hairline mullet.

The October 5, 2005: Q&A with Cast at the Screen Actors Guild Theater fills seven minutes, 59 seconds. We find notes from Mulroney, Parker, Wilson, Giordano, and actors Rachel McAdams and Claire Danes. They discuss what attracted them to their characters and elements of their performances, thoughts about other cast members, locations, using sign language, and interactions on the set. Not much real information occurs, but this becomes a very entertaining piece, mostly due to the amusing anecdotes told by Wilson; he single-handedly turns this into a solid featurette.

A Behind the Scenes featurette runs 17 minutes and 52 seconds. It includes info from Bezucha, Danes, Wilson, Mulroney, Keaton, McAdams, Parker, Giordano, London, Nelson, Stewart, costume designer Shay Cunliffe, and actor Savannah Stehlin. They discuss the story, the fictional characters and the subject of general family dynamics, the actors’ interactions and performances, choosing when to use sign language, production design and costumes, and the film’s themes. Inevitably, we get a modicum of plot rehash and promotional material. To my surprise, though, the piece also includes some decent insights. It covers some issues not discussed elsewhere and proves reasonably valuable.

Next we find a five-minute and 46-second Gag Reel. Should you expect anything more than the standard allotment of giggles and goofs? Nope.

If you want to make Meredith’s Strata, the text recipe appears here. Finally, the DVD includes three Trailers for Stone as well as ads for Confetti, Little Manhattan and Just My Luck.

To my very pleasant surprise, all of the extras on the DVD come with optional English subtitles. I can’t remember the last Fox release to do so, and the text even accompanies both commentaries. Very nice!

Too bad The Family Stone itself didn’t come as a surprise, pleasant or otherwise. An absolutely dreadful family melodrama that pounds emotional buttons with absurd urgency, it never threatens to become anything more than sappy schlock. The DVD offers fairly average picture and audio along with a fairly good roster of extras despite the presence of an unlistenable actors’ track. Overall, this is an unexceptional DVD for a terrible movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7647 Stars Number of Votes: 34
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