151114lovethecoopersposterSam and Charlotte Cooper are planning one last family Christmas with the kids and grand kids … before telling the extended clan they’re divorcing after 40 years of marriage.

Hank Cooper is coming, too, but he hasn’t told his parents or his ex-wife that he’s lost his job.

Eleanor Cooper is killing time and brain cells at the airport bar to delay actually coming to the dinner, when she meets a soldier she plans to bring home as her alleged “boyfriend,” just so she doesn’t have to see the disappointed look in her mother’s eye that she’s still alone. But Eleanor’s not really alone; she’s secretly having an affair with the family’s (married) doctor.

And Emma Cooper, Charlotte’s sister, is arrested on Christmas Day for stealing a gift for her sibling.

Now, who’s feeling festive?

“Love the Coopers” brings major comedy stars – John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Steve Martin and Alan Arkin – together for a bunch of belly laughs, but just isn’t able to break clean from its dreary, hopeless, depressing batch of dysfunction.

For the premise of this disaster of a family reunion is that these characters are still living out the pain of their childhoods (we even see flashbacks of the traumas that so shaped them). This is a dystopian drama only B.F. Skinner could love. The characters are not only stuck in dysfunctional fears and habits, but they resent their family for having “caused” their pain in the first place.

For the vast majority of this film, I sat there thinking, “Boy, do these people need Jesus.” Not that faith would fix all their problems, but these characters desperately need the forgiveness and freedom that new life in the gospel brings. Barring such life-altering power, these characters are just devoid of hope.

Along the way, however, the characters in “Love the Coopers” manage to insult Christianity instead. With sneering Hollywood condescension, Eleanor Cooper racks up a list of people and subjects to mock, including religious faith, patriotism, gun owners, the military, Republicans, married people, climate-change “deniers” and evolution skeptics.

Even the film’s one, potentially spiritual moment is wrecked, when in the middle of a thoughtful and touching prayer, the dog passes gas and the whole family gags and wretches at the smell.

Funny, yes, but also insulting.

I think the plan behind “Love the Coopers” was to give audiences a more authentic Christmas movie than the sugar-coated and gingerbread holiday films that come out every year.

Instead, it goes overboard to despair and hopelessness.

The laughs and poignant moments are there in “Love the Coopers,” it should be a thoughtful and entertaining film … but it’s not. Even as it tries to wrap up with a joyful and fuzzy family message, it comes too little, too late. The feel-good moment at the end doesn’t really resolve the depressing nature of the rest of the film. And it isn’t really believable that these broken, hopeless people somehow turn their lives around just because of this one, shining moment.

No, these character need more than a warm family meal. They really do need Jesus. And their movie … might even need more than that.

Content advisory:

“Love the Coopers,” rated PG-13, contains roughly 25, mostly light obscenities and profanities.

The movie has only a couple of instances of violence, including a couple of punches in a scene with a schoolyard bully, an ice-skating collision and some minor, slapstick stuff.

The film contains a bit of cleavage, a camera focus on a woman’s behind, a few kisses, a few scenes of heavy kissing played for comedic effect and a handful of crude references and discussions. There is no nudity or explicit sexual content. One character in the film confesses to only being “gay in bed.”

The film contains several Christmas carols and a moment of prayer this is genuine and touching until it is rudely interrupted, but it also has several, mostly critical or mocking references to religious faith. An early line mocks the lyric of “Joy to the World,” stating, “It’s not ‘the Lord has come’ like God reached orgasm.” There are also several Jewish references and Menorahs in the film, though these aren’t roundly mocked.

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