Time: 124 Minutes
Genre: Family Comedy
AWARDS: Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Wiest) and Best Song.
SYNOPSIS: The story of the Buckman family as they attempt to bring up their children. They suffer/enjoy all the events that occur: estranged relatives, the return of the "black sheep" of the family, the eccentrics, the skeletons in the closet, and the rebellious teenagers.
BOTTOM LINE: Howard and company tackle a topic clearly close to their hearts, the ups and downs of the hardest job in the world being a parent. You don't have to be one to laugh and cry along with the Buckmans. Their lives are complicated with everyday troubles that almost everyone will be able to relate to whether you have children or not. Their issues run the gamut from teen pregnancy to child therapy to marital separation and parental disappointment with each situation proving what a neverending pain in the ass the job of parenting can be.
Yes, there's joy too, and this being a comedy, many hilarious episodes; yet it's in the little moments that the film gets the parent/child bond just right. We may love one another, but understanding each other is a whole different story. As they always say, you can choose your friends, but sometimes you have to learn to live with your family.
The film is perfectly cast with Martin in the middle, as the upstanding dad desperately trying to be the perfect father, which means being as different from his own distant dad (played by Robards) as possible. He seems a bit uncomfortable in the role, which I guess is the point and adds to the fun. Wiest is wonderful as his overtaxed sister, who's just trying to move on from her own divorce while attempting to stop her teenage daughter from making the same mistakes. Her frustration is palpable (given that her daughter's choice in a man is Keanu Reeves), giving her scenes a poignancy mixed with bitterness that speaks volumes of truth and keeps the film from being overly hokey. That being said, it does have many corny moments and an obvious message, but those things fail to detract from the overall fun. An intelligent, humorous homage to parenting everyone can enjoy.