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Review: A 'Family Weekend' wrapped into a hostage comedy

March 28, 2013|By Mark Olsen
  • Matthew Modine and Kristen Chenoweth in "Family Weekend."
Matthew Modine and Kristen Chenoweth in "Family Weekend." (Handout )

In "Family Weekend," onetime "High School Musical" cast member Olesya Rulin plays a competitive high-school jump-roper who takes her parents hostage after they miss one meet too many. Aided by her younger brother and sister, the teen's plan is to hold them in their house long enough to take them all with her to the state finals. The hostage comedy can be tricky business, done successfully in films such as "The Ref" or "Swimming With Sharks," and director Benjamin Epps and screenwriter Matt K. Turner just about pull it off.

Such films must manage a fine balancing act between the victims (where an audience's sympathy naturally goes) and rationalizing/explaining the actions of the instigator, who is typically the main character. "Family Weekend" is no worse than many of the dysfunctional family comedies that populate the Sundance Film Festival — "Little Miss Sunshine" is name-checked within the movie itself — but isn't any better either.

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In theory, the main draws here are Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Modine as the distracted parents, but what keeps the film afloat is the buoyant young cast, with Rulin especially watchable as the tightly wound lead and Joey King as her younger sister, who's an aspiring actress. King's cute show-biz-kid riffs through bits from "Dog Day Afternoon," "Reservoir Dogs" and "A Clockwork Orange" are fun to watch, while her Jodie Foster "Taxi Driver" costume is a bit disconcerting.

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"Family Weekend." Rated R for some sexual content and brief drug use. Running Time: 1 hour and 36 minutes. At the TCL Chinese.

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