|(photo from Amazon.com)|
This review is going to be full of spoilers. FULL OF THEM. The movie is more than six years old and I don't think you should see it, so. I won't talk about anything else in this post, so if you DO want to see it, BOW OUT NOW. I mean, I am going to tell pretty much THE ENTIRE PLOT, so it's not like it's just going to be a detail here and a detail there.
Here is the idea behind this movie: If we cast Zooey Deschanel, the emotionally-scarring revelation that a father/grandfather was a secret polygamist can be CHARMING and WHIMSICAL and ADORABLE!!!!! heart! star! smiley! fairy dust! squee!
Speaking of embarrassing, the Debra Winger character is nauseatingly awful to her sister and her sister's fiancee, saying such HORRIBLE things to/about them (oh, you're having a gay wedding? as long as you're having fake ceremony, how about having another one to get yourself declared queen of the world? I mean why not?) that I thought I might rather DIE than think ANYONE I KNEW would EVER SAY SOMETHING SO BARFY---and it turns out it's because she's SECRETLY GAY HERSELF!!! OH I GET IT NOW!!!! And then she apologizes to her sister, kind of, and both of them get weepy, so THAT'S okay!
Ray Romano and Hank Azaria and Kelly Preston and Debra Winger are the four children of Rip Torn. Rip Torn dies. In his will he leaves his wife a house, and also leaves a videotape that tells them, "Ha ha, I fooled you all, I had three families, that's why I couldn't remember any of your names or act like I loved you, WHOOOOO what a lark, it's been a wild ride and I spent all the money and I regret nothing, you suckers!!!" He LAUGHS. I mean, you know Rip Torn, with his devil expression; that's what he does. He then tells his granddaughter, Zooey Deschanel, to please find his other two families and give them the sad, sad news of his death. (Why he couldn't have left them their own life-shattering videotapes is not explained.)
So she travels to the first of the other families, and she tells the whole story to the wife. The story she tells is the movie, where the four children fight and bond and talk about how their dad was a jerk who had clear favorites and was a jerk and said jerky things and no one can think of anything good to say about him for a eulogy. (Zooey does remember this one time where her grandfather pretended he couldn't see her on the porch, so, you know, QUALITY PERSON WITH MANY FINE AND REDEEMING QUALITIES, I GUESS IS THE IMPLICATION.)
At the end of the movie, Zooey Deschanel reads a eulogy that is actually a love note from her boyfriend but which by amazing coincidence makes TOTAL SENSE as a touching and emotionally manipulative eulogy for her grandfather, and which also brings them all around to understand that they shouldn't blame the guy for having three families and no job and for being a jerk, but instead should be so, so grateful and feel so, so loved that he kept bothering to come back to them! HE CAME BACK! Occasionally!! That means he must have CARED!! Then we come back to the present, where Zooey is telling all this to the 2nd or 3rd wife---only to find that adorable klutzy Zooey has been telling this whole story to a neighbor instead of the wife!!! Whoopsie!!
So then Zooey goes back to the car and kisses her cute boyfriend for awhile, and then adorably leaves the cruel, cruel videotape in the wife's mailbox next door, because Zooey is too busy kissing her adorable boyfriend to worry about ripping someone's life up from the roots, and plus, she already worked so, so, SO hard telling that whole entire story to the wrong person, amirite? I mean, she can't go through that AGAIN!!
And then as Zooey drives off giggling and in love, we see the wife opening the letter and video---only to find that klutzy adorable Zooey has accidentally switched the cruel videotape with a PORN VIDEO! Whoopsie!!! So the other wife STILL DOESN'T KNOW HER SECRETLY POLYGAMOUS HUSBAND IS DEAD, OR POLYGAMOUS!! Ha ha, isn't that ADORABLE!!?? And HILARIOUS!!?? She's sitting there watching PORN!! And soon (maybe) (somehow) she will find out that not only is she a widow, but HER LIFE WAS A LIE! And probably her house doesn't belong to her anymore, either! Wheeeeeeee!
And what about the THIRD woman?? Hey, who cares, the videotape has already been left for ONE of the two women, surely THAT'S enough to call her duty completed! Hobble cutely away on cute shoes with Mr. Curly Shoulder-Length Hair and Earnest Poet Eyes, Zooey! Everything has been taken care of!!! You've certainly done all anyone can expect of YOU!
I was so disappointed. Hank Azaria!! Debra Winger!! Ray Romano!!! Glenne Headly!! But no. They did their best, and they did a great job at the roles they were given, and there were good and funny parts of the movie too, but what were they supposed to do about it, you know? Barge into the final scene and be like, "Hey. Wait. This makes no sense. Why is happy whimsical music playing? Why did our mom act like everything was cool? Why don't we mind that our blinky-blue-eyed niece/daughter is all, 'Wheeeeeeeee, tripping merrily on my leg-crossed fairy feet to see wifeys two and threesies ha ha ha omg CUTENESS!!!'? Why did our dad leave this important task to HER? Should one of us maybe supervise her to make sure she, you know, DOES IT?"
Oh, movies are just for entertainment? It's just for fun, so it doesn't matter if it makes sense or not? INCORRECT. Movies need to HANG TOGETHER and MAKE SENSE. After THAT, they can be fun and entertaining and relaxing. Otherwise I could just patch together a kazoo solo and a cupcake sequence and a montage of YouTube kitten / babies laughing videos and be all "SEE? Entertainment! OSCAR PLZ!!!" ...Okay, that WOULD deserve an Oscar, but IN GENERAL I THINK YOU GET MY POINT. "It's just entertainment" does not justify things being STUPID and CRAZY and NOT MAKING SENSE AT ALL.
To be fair to Zooey Deschanel, she plays her part. She didn't write the part, she didn't direct the part, she just took the job and she did what they told her to, and she did a good job at that. They said, "Hey. We need someone who, for the first 9/10ths of the movie, can have truly great bangs. I mean, we want minimum 90% of the female audience to leave the theater wondering if they should go back to having bangs even considering what a hassle it was to grow them out last time. And then we want her for the last 10% of the movie to giggle, kiss, and blink her big blue eyes---no matter WHAT happens with the plot. Can you do that? GREAT."