Family Feud: Locke’s Dysfunctional Holiday Picks

by | Nov 23rd, 2010 | 12:32PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies, Weekly redbox Picks

“Well, it ain’t Ozzie and Harriet”

Spend the holidays with some families even crazier (maybe) than yours

The Family that Falls Apart Together

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family: The Play

The broad dramatic gestures that sometimes unbalance Perry the film maker serve him well as a populist playwright–what feels big and hammy on screen perfectly fills a stage. And of course in either medium his greatest weapon is the always-hilarious Madea. In this filmed production of Perry’s latest play, his loud-but-wise alter-ego is backed up by the equally bawdy Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis). They’re trying to straighten out an extended family bedeviled by Perry’s usual conflicts: bad parenting, drugs, misplaced love, as well as a dying matriarch.

Perry quickly wrote Big Happy Family after his own mother’s death last year, and it shows both in the no-frills narrative and raw, forceful emotions. As in all his work, things bounce quickly from riotous insult comedy to heavy pathos and then back to uplifting. But halfway through, Madea takes center stage for a bravura 25-minute sermon presenting the playwright’s Guide to How to Fix Yourself and Your Family (often breaking character and the fourth wall along the way). It’s part soap box, part song therapy, but by the time Big Happy Family is over you’ll have been bowled over, then won over by Perry’s tour-de-force of positive convictions.

Don’t Forget:

  • City Island — Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies¬†head up a Bronx family where everyone’s secrets are less of a problem than the amusing efforts they go to to conceal them. (Read my full review)
  • Happy Tears –Demi Moore and Parker Posey wrestle with their aging father, a hilariously rascally Rip Torn. (Read my full review)


The Family that Laughs Together

Grown Ups

Adam Sandler and pals Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Rob Schneider are baffled as to how they ended up married with children. (Well, all but Spade, ’cause… ewww!) Luckily the man-boys’ arrested development is all sorts of immature fun. Your own family may have its disagreements, but everyone can come together over a good pee-in-the-pool joke.

Don’t Forget:

  • Death at a Funeral on DVD and Blu-ray — You can’t escape your insane family even after you’re gone. Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan and many more star in this R-rated funeral farce. (Read my full review)


The Family that Quarrels Together

The Last Station

It was Leo Tolstoy who literally wrote the book on how “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Here it’s members of his own family who are at each other’s throats as the great writer (Christopher Plummer) prepares for the end–including his combative wife (Helen Mirren), his secretary (Paul Giamatti) and a new acolyte (James McAvoy). Fantastic performances from Plummer and Mirren top off a deeper look at how to reconcile your ideals with the living of life.

Don’t Forget:


The Family that Fakes it Together

$5 a Day

Christopher Walken is your estranged dad who taught you everything you know about the short con. And he’s back to take you on one last road-trip/grift across the American Southwest. Annnnd go! Walken is in Full Walken Mode for this small, charming ditty from British director Nigel Cole (the upcoming Made in Dagenham), but also keep an eye on Alessandro Nivola as the son–Nivola’s a strong player in the Bradley Cooper mold who’s due to break out one of these days.

Don’t Forget:

  • The Joneses — In this satire of consumer culture, Demi Moore and David Duchovny¬†are deep-immersion stealth marketers whose made-up family moves into affluent communities and uses neighbor envy to push luxury products. (Read my full review)
  • Leaves of Grass on DVD and Blu-ray– Edward Norton plays twin brothers–one an Ivy League Classics professor, the other a genius pot grower in trouble with the Oklahoma drug cartels. (Read my full review)


The Family that Faces Hard Times Together

Winter’s Bone

Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes star in this chilling-but-inspirational story of a young rural woman navigating the deadly territory of her meth-ravaged county. This is one of my favorite films of the year so far, and while it may be too harrowing for a warm holiday night, make no mistake, it’s about family–both those who abandon you and those who unexpectedly sticks by during the darkest hours.

Don’t Forget:

  • The Greatest — As parents devastated by the death of their son, Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon must also deal with his pregnant girlfriend (Carey Mulligan). (Read my full review)

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