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Merry Christmas And Happy Chanukah

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... and an apology from me, if you have been unable to access BCB today. The servers have been balky -- I haven't been able to get in myself most of the day -- and those who can fix it are, as you can imagine, celebrating the holiday with their families.

So, I'm here hoping the site will stay up long enough for me to post a review of a film I saw this afternoon, "The Family Stone".

It seemed an appropriate choice as it revolves around a family with several adult children, getting together for a Christmas reunion.

If you've seen a trailer for this film, you're likely expecting a movie filled with wisecracks and pratfalls.

And yes, it has some of those. But it's not about that at all. It's a comedy, but there are also many thoughtful undertones.

The basic setup revolves around Everett (Dermot Mulroney), who is bringing home his fiancee, Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker), to meet his family for the first time.

To say Meredith is wound up tight is like saying Dusty Baker likes having his hitters go up there hacking. She'd be the hackmaster in Baker's scenario. Even her hair is wound up way too tight.

We meet the parents (played exquisitely by Craig T. Nelson and Diane Keaton), and all the various siblings and some significant others. You start thinking these are stereotypes (a gay deaf son with a black partner? C'mon -- but this is handled with great sensitivity and provides the focal point to a scene of great power), but each one -- the pregnant eldest child, the slacker, the snotty youngest -- has his or her purpose.

And then there's Meredith's sister Julie (Claire Danes), playing a woman far older and wiser than Danes' 26 years, who shows up when Meredith feels the entire family "hates her" (at that point, you're pretty sure they really do -- for the first half hour she's about the most unlikeable character you can think of in a film, which is a credit to Parker's acting), and summons her from her own family to be with her. Danes gets top billing among the cast, and there's a reason for that, which I also won't reveal.

I won't spoil this film for you. Just let it be said that it involves characters discovering who they really are, and there is a revelation about one of them that is never really spoken out loud, but provides the base for everything that happens.

Don't you hate it when film critics give you all sorts of spoilers in their reviews, and then tell you to stop reading? Why would you read the review if it had the entire plot of the movie?

Actually, the above-linked critic's review of this film specifically didn't do that; in fact, he wrote:

And then, in ways I will not reveal, it turns out there is another truth ... Opposites attract.

And that should be enough to whet your appetite for this film. It's set around Christmas, but it has universal truths. A fine film for this season, or any time.

Merry Christmas, all, and Happy Chanukah.

AY Rating: * * *