The trailers portray this movie solely as a fish-out-of-water comedy wherein the absurdly uptight Manhattan businesswoman goes home with her fiancé to meet his family in the suburbs, the family members take an instant dislike to the woman, and hijinks ensue. Surely that was part of the plot, but it overlooked a couple of other plot points that left me feeling like the director wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted the movie to be, or the marketers didn’t know how to sell it to an audience.
Sarah Jessica Parker does a good job protraying Meredith Morton, the uptight and nervous strong-willed Manhattanite who becomes nearly useless in the ’burbs. Dermot Mulroney is her fiancé Everett Stone, deftly playing the balanced and reserved counterpoint to Parker’s uptightness. Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson play Mulroney’s bohemian parents Sybil and Kelly, and Luke Wilson and Rachel McAdams are two of Mulroney’s siblings, Ben and Amy. Another sibling, the gay brother Thad, is played by Tyrone Giordano, an actor I wasn’t familiar with before this movie.
Amy takes the strongest (by which I mean, most vocal) dislike to Meredith, while Ben is overtly attracted to her. Sybil and Kelly are likable (the fact that I like both actors helped enormously here) and the entire family dynamic is one of goofily amiable affection. However, things rapidly go downhill for Meredith and she ends up booking a room at a nearby inn and calling her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to help her deal with this crazy situation.
There’s a subplot involving Sybil’s health that’s barely developed but figures prominently in the movie’s ending, making me think the original screenplay probably centered on this element of the plot but it was later cut to a secondary theme as the rest of the story developed. There are some truly laugh-out-loud moments and more than a few of the cringe-worthy family/awkward moments we’ve all encountered.
Upshot: I liked this movie—we saw it today in a nearly sold-out cinema, and the audience got into the family scenes and the comedic parts equally, which made it that much more enjoyable. But the strange handling of the mom’s health problem and the weird afterthought-style ending surrounding that problem just seemed shoddily handled to me. I was most struck by the fact that the trailer only dealt with the fish-out-of-water element of the story, but thankfully the producers didn’t stick every single funny part into the trailer for marketing purposes.