There will be no spoilers in this review, for the simple reason that, try as I did, I couldn’t make it till the very end. I didn’t care, and when that happens there’s only one thing to do: turn off the TV. I suspect that doing so gave me more catharsis than the one offered by “Family Weekend.”
I didn’t care how the film ended because I didn’t care for the characters. They were annoying and as artificial as processed foods. You couldn’t believe anything they did or said, and the same holds true for the film itself. As natural as the dysfunctional family seemed in “Little Miss Sunshine,” this group seems so wholly invented for entertainment purposes that you never forget they’re the creation of writers.
Dad (Matthew Modine) is a self-obsessed painter who is flakier than the brother on “iCarly.” Mom (Kristin Chenoweth) is the self-involved power-earner who pays the rent on the family’s palatial contemporary home. Jackson (Eddie Hassell) is the older brother who paints and fancies himself gay the way other comedic film characters have thought themselves black. The most theatrical of the group is Lucinda (Joey King), whose obsession is acting. Her current obsession is the child prostitute role that Jodi Foster played in “Taxi Driver,” and she prances around the house in-character spouting lines. As if that weren’t enough, we also get former “Patridge Family” mom Shirley Jones as GG, dad’s mother who’s more like Alice in “The Brady Bunch” except she sings around the house.
Yeah, it all adds up to a little too much to take. Call it “Sixteen Candles” meets “Nine to Five.” Except “Nine to Five” got better after the authority figure was wrapped and bundled; this one never found the fast track that would lead to real laughs.
Sixteen-year-old Emily is a nerdy pariah who’s ridiculed at school for own her singular obsession: extreme jump roping. She trains for competitions, and, in fact, we see her compete in the regionals where some pretty fancy rope-work is shown. But when none of the family shows up for regionals and Emily has to pose with her first-place trophy all by herself, she snaps. She decides to drug her family (God knows where she got the drugs) and tie them up until they’re ready to be a normal family that spends time together and is there for each other. And I didn’t have to watch the ending because I could already tell I’d seen it before.
I’ll admit that somewhere in “Family Weekend” is is an idea that’s not awful, even if the basic premise does seem like a rip-off of “House Arrest,” where we saw kids do the same thing with Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Pollak after it was announced they were getting a divorce. But in this film there are just too many over-the-top characters with extreme obsessions rather than varying degrees of weirdness, and everything that happens is so painfully clichéd and familiar—from the unwanted visitors that turn up after the “intervention” to the end I can only imagine—that it all adds up to one big overwrought mess.
The video presentation is “letterboxed widescreen” that measures close to 2.20:1. There’s not much to say against it, or for it, for that matter. It provides a perfectly adequate visual look.
The featured audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 that does the job. Closed captioning is available.
Included is a brief “Conversation with the Filmmakers” that plays like an abridged promo piece. Other than that, there are a handful of deleted scenes or “webisodes,” however you want to refer to them: Thor Smith-Dungy’s Chicken Dance, Jackson & Kat Fireside, Rick Dances the Camel, and Lucinda Gets into Character.
Watching “Family Weekend” you feel as trapped as the tied-up parents, wondering, when will it all end?