Family Weekend Review
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No family is perfect. Each one, in fact, seems to exhibit its own special brand of dysfunction. But there’s a pretty good chance that the characters in the delightfully dark family dramedy Family Weekend will make just about any other family look like the Cleavers.

Olesya Rulin stars as Emily Smith-Dungy, a driven sixteen-year-old jump-rope champion who comes from a family full of misfits. Little sister Lucy (Joey King) spends her days acting out movies that are completely inappropriate for nine-year-olds. Little brother Mickey (Robbie Tucker) has no interest in anything residing outside the animal kingdom. And Jackson (Eddie Hassell) is intent on becoming a famous gay artist. Meanwhile, dad Duncan (Matthew Modine) keeps himself locked in his studio, working on his latest painting, while mom Samantha (Kristin Chenoweth) is too busy working to notice any of them.

When the entire family ignores repeated pleas to attend her regional jump-rope competition, Emily finally snaps. Determined to fix her messed-up family before the state finals, she drugs her parents, ties them up, and forces them into parenting boot camp.

The Smith-Dungy family is the kind of family that (fortunately) only exists in the movies. While most families have their share of misfits and black sheep, this family takes the usual personality quirks and exaggerates them until you’ll wonder how on Earth these six people manage to survive under the same roof.

In some ways, the exaggerated characters work well. Rulin’s Emily is so exceedingly uptight that it’s no surprise that she’d eventually snap. And the deeper she gets into her twisted little plan, the more messed-up (and likable) she becomes. Chenoweth’s Samantha, meanwhile, is cold and detached to such extremes that you’ll love to hate her. The same is true—though to a lesser extent—of Modine’s Duncan. He’s flighty and distant—and sometimes uncomfortably easy-going. Both parents are mildly amusing yet totally inept in their parenting—so when Emily takes them hostage, you won’t really feel sorry for them, but you won’t be totally irritated by their existence, either.

The other siblings, however, don’t fare quite as well. Little Mickey is cute, but he’s barely a factor in the story. Jackson is clearly trying too hard to impress everyone around him—and that makes him a frustrating character. And King’s Lucy—with her over-the-top, foul-mouthed performances of everything from Taxi Driver to A Clockwork Orange—will take no time at all to grate on your nerves.

Still, the story isn’t really about the siblings; it’s more about Emily and her horrible parents. And while it doesn’t go quite as dark as it could have, it isn’t just sweet and innocent, either. It takes some surprising (and sometimes surprisingly funny) turns, which help to make Family Weekend an amusingly twisted comedy.

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