The critics have spoken. I can no longer love my family.
I didn’t need my family to be a critical darling to keep loving them, not by any stretch of the imagination, but a 38% review score on Rotten Tomatoes. That is abysmal. The review aggregate site’s Metacritic score puts us squarely in the Generally Unfavorable Reviews section with classics such as Hocus Pocus or Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit. Oliver Fones of The Observing called us “middling” while Brian Ondorff of Bluray.com wrote that our family “aims to be cheeky and offbeat, but it’s exhausting instead.”
How can I love these people as they are presently concocted in this family unit? My favourite flicks are critical darlings of the highest rapport. Flicks such as 12 Angry Men, The Maltese Falcon, and Paddington 2 (which I never actually saw, but I’ll get to it and love it as the critics did) are classics. Untouchable. The sacred cows.
But how did my family careen off into straight-to-video action movie territory?
First off, there are the individual performances. I don’t want to gloss over anyone, but Dad didn’t bring much to the table, literally or figuratively. His total lack of charisma since the death of his new wife was obvious to critics. Kenneth Kuran called him “by the numbers.” I know there is a complicated man inside, filled with a raging hurricane made up of inner turmoil and grief, but none of that reads as he sits in the corner and politely makes conversation.
Mom is just… Bland. Loving, caring, strong, humble, empathetic, blah blah blah blah. “A mix of central casting stereotypes and an overly nostalgic scribe leaves little to contemplate in the end,” said Susan Abossa of the Edmonton Sun. You know what? I didn’t even notice it until I read that review. Crazy. Get an edge, mom. You’re boring us to death.
Of course, that edge can cut both ways. At Thanksgiving last year, my brother Brilton, the police officer in training, jokingly began frisking my aunt after she inquired about his career path. We all laughed, but the frivolity didn’t last long as his search turned up an unmarked bottle of painkillers. Things got a bit rough as he produced handcuffs, and in response, my cousin began filming the event on his phone, much to Brilton’s ire. After restraining my 68-year-old aunt with a chokehold, he made some calls, and let's just say we won’t be seeing Aunt Phyllis for four to ten Thanksgivings. It could make for a good redemption arc if she handles it well, so there is some hope there. That usually plays on critics' heartstrings if it’s handled correctly. Abe Harrington of the Junior Sentinal tore the whole thing apart for being exploitative of the times we currently live in. I don’t disagree here; there is very little nuisance in rage, and Brilton is all rage. “Yes, you can yell, but should you?” Bianca Holisten wrote in her scathing takedown of the scene on dvd.org.
What is the opposite of a stereotype? A nothing-type? That’s Grandpa for you. A big nothing. Too old for any real dramatic tension, he merely exists and takes away from the family members around him, forcing us to endlessly repeat our benign pleasantries to him at increasingly louder volumes. Like… Hello? Maybe he should be trans or something. At the least, gift us with diversity while you drag down everyone else’s individual performances to your incoherent level. No critic even took the time to dog his performance; I am doing it as a mission of mercy from the rest of the family.
As individuals, we are a letdown, but as an ensemble, we really fall flat on our faces. I never thought we were Gosford Park (91% on the Tomatometer), but maybe we were a poor man’s Royal Tenenbaums (81% on the Tomatometer). But it turns out we are closer to a Mars Attacks (51%) or a What to Expect When You’re Expecting (23%), which, to be fair, I thought was a stone-cold classic until the reviews told me otherwise.
The top-rated critical reactions to our family unit ranged from “awkward and cold” to “tense.” Even eagle-eyed Rotten Tomatoes users could see it. “The long stretches where they all silently watched Antique Hunters on TV had little to no payoff,” wrote user Romeo_Rodeo69. These are NOT the opinions of educated movie watchers; these are the people on the street with enough wherewithal to sit down and put thought and meaning into reviews that literally no one will ever take the time read.
So what can we work on? For one thing, production values. Our house is dated and cheap looking. I know we don't have a huge budget, but we (or specifically me, I suppose) have a large amount of time on our hands to invest in set design and prop selection. Perhaps we could add some thought to our wardrobe: Brilton is angry, so he wears a red shirt? This isn’t high-level thinking, people, these are the basics, and if we follow through, maybe we can put some energy into our performances. Instead of watching Antique Hunters, maybe that useless sister of mine, Brittany, can bring home a POC, and we can get a conversation started. 65% … no, 75% is in our grasp, people!
Do you want inspiration? Look to the Warner family down the block. Year after year, everything they do is certified fresh. I wish I knew their secret! We should all be as lucky as the Warner brothers!