Family Weekend: Film Review

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Kristin Chenoweth
A seemingly family-friendly premise is infused with bizarre vulgarity in this comic misfire.

A teenage girl holds her parents hostage in Benjamin Epps' determinedly wacky comedy.

While it would seem to be ideal fodder for ABC Family or The Hallmark Channel, Family Weekend strangely goes off in an entirely different direction. Benjamin Epps’ directorial debut concerns a 16-year-old girl who holds her parents hostage after they fail to show up for an important jump-roping competition. But despite its seemingly family-friendly comic premise, the film’s frank dialogue about sex and drugs has resulted in an R rating, seemingly eliminating whatever target audience it hoped to attract -- except, perhaps, curiosity seekers.

Emily (Olesya Rulin, who in typical Hollywood fashion, is nearly a decade too old for the role) is maniacally devoted to her speed rope-jumping, so her frustration with her self-absorbed parents and wacky trio of siblings reaches the breaking point when none of them shows up for an all-important competition.

So she decides to take matters into her own hands, drugging her parents -- type-A business executive Samantha (Kristin Chenoweth) and bohemian slacker artist Duncan (Matthew Modine) — and tying them up for a family intervention.

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Watching from the sidelines are older brother Jackson (Eddie Hassell), who likes to pretend he’s gay; younger sister Lucinda (Joey King), who walks around dressed as such iconic screen characters as Jodie Foster's teenage hooker in Taxi Driver; and little brother Mickey (Robbie Tucker) who wears a monkey mask. When budding filmmaker Jackson’s video footage of the family drama hits the internet, predictable farcical complications ensue.

Relentlessly straining for kookiness, Matt K. Turner’s screenplay nonetheless doesn’t miss a stereotypical beat in its strained plot elements and stereotypical characters, including a nerdy classmate who pines for Emily and a hippy-dippy grandmother played by Shirley Jones. But what might have made for innocuous family entertainment is here infused with a bizarre edginess lacking the necessary wit to make it anything more than distasteful.

Although Rulin displays a compelling neurotic edge as the driven Emily, Chenoweth and Modine are unable to breathe much life into their schematic roles, while the supporting players are basically saddled with conveying a compendium of quirks. And since virtually all of the characters are thoroughly dislikable, there’s little emotional investment in whether this dysfunctional family will manage to get its act together. Rather, they seem to deserve each other, while the audience simply deserves better.

Opens March 29 (ARC Entertainment)

Production: Footprint Features, The Bedford Falls Company

Cast: Olesya Rulin, Kristin Chenoweth, Matthew Modine, Eddie Hassell, Joey King, Robbie Tucker, Shirley Jones

Director: Benjamin Epps

Screenwriter: Matt K. Turner

Producers: Chris Aronoff, Adam Saunders

Executive producers: Gary R. Benz, Youmi N. Maa, Todd Olsson

Director of photography: Chris Norr

Editor: Colleen Halsey

Production designer: Manuel Perez Pena

Costume designer: Leslie Ann Loughlin

Composers: Russ Howard III, Mateo Messina

Rated R, 96 min.