MRR Review: "Family Weekend"

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A 16-year-old girl takes her parents hostage after they miss her big jump-roping competition. Actress Olesya Rulin stars as the main character, teenager Emily Smith-Dungy, while Kristin Chenoweth & Matthew Modine portray her parents. Directed by Benjamin Epps.
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MRR Review: "Family Weekend"

-- Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: March 29, 2013
Directed By: Benjamin Epps
Genre: Comedy/Drama

A solid cast, hilarious antics, and a central theme around family values make "Family Weekend" a must-see movie for anyone who has an appreciation for how difficult parenting can really be, despite its somewhat implausible story line. Although it is a comedy, "Family Weekend" is an endearing tale of what teens think good parenting really means, and what can happen when they take control of the home.

Sixteen-year-old Emily Smith-Dungy (Olesya Rulin) is tired of being ignored by her high-powered, type-A mother, Samantha Smith-Dungy (Kristin Chenoweth) and artsy hippie-type father, Duncan Dungy (Matthew Modine). Although she and her siblings get plenty of nurturing from their grandmother GG (Shirley Jones), she wants her parents to start being normal and pay attention to the family. Her frustration comes to a head when both parents miss her jump-rope competition; she decides that it is time to do something about it.

She swipes some of her mother's sleeping pills and offers her parents a drug-laced beverage. Once asleep, she duct tapes them to two kitchen chairs and decides to teach them what they should be doing as parents. With that, she concocts what she calls a "parental aptitude test."

Emily tricks her siblings into going along with her plot. Her seventeen-year-old brother, Jackson (Eddie Hassell), loves to film things-especially his muscles. She tells him that if he goes along with the plan, he can document everything with his camcorder. Her nine-year-old sister Lucy (Joey King) is obsessed with movies and film stars, so Emily tells her that she can play a part in a movie that Jackson is filming. Her little brother Mickey (Robbie Tucker), who is a genius savant, doesn't seem aware of what is really going on.

Much of movie is centered on antics that include puppet therapy, visitors dropping by unannounced, and Emily lecturing her mother about the virtues of a non-vegetarian diet. Surrounded by her siblings and eventually her grandmother, Emily does not give up until one of her best friends starts tweeting about what is going on, and the hilarious hostage situation goes viral on the Internet.

"Family Weekend" is Benjamin Epps' directorial debut for a full-length film. Prior to this movie, he had directed two short features-"Pickle Power" and "StereoLife"-and the television series "Meet Me in the Graveyard." Although he received mixed reviews for the film, most agree that he has time to hone his craft.

Olesya Rulin gives a brilliant performance as Emily. Rulin, who was born in Russia, began her acting career in 2001 in several television movies and shows, including "Hounded," "The Poof Point," and "Everwood." Her breakout role came in 2006 when she portrayed Kelsi Nielsen in "High School Musical," followed by "High School Musical 2" in 2007 and "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" in 2008.

Award-winning actress Kristin Chenoweth also gives an amazing performance in the film. Chenoweth started her career in 1999 with bit parts in several television movies before getting a show of her own, "Kristin" in 2001. Although only 11 episodes were shot, Chenoweth's career was in full throttle. She played the role of Maria Kelly in the hit movie "Bewitched," followed by the character Cherie in "The Pink Panther." Chenoweth won two Primetime Emmy awards for her role in the television series "Pushing Daisies," followed by another Primetime Emmy award for her role in "Glee."

Matthew Modine, a veteran film actor, was perfectly cast as the hippie father. Modine started his acting career 1982 in the "ABC Afterschool Specials" before moving on to small roles in a series of big-screen films. By 1999, he was landing supporting roles in movies such as "Any Given Sunday," "Very Mean Men," and "The Garden of Eden." He won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Dr. Hartford in "Girl in Progress" and for the role of Foley in "The Dark Knight Rises."

Bringing in Shirley Jones to play the part of the nurturing grandmother was a stroke of casting genius. Jones, who began her acting career in "Fireside Theatre" in 1950, became a household name when she took on the role of doting mother Shirley Partridge in the 1970s-smash-hit, television series "The Partridge Family." Although she has played roles in movies such as "The Poseidon Adventure," much of her career has been played out in television series and TV movies, including "The Love Boat," "The Drew Carey Show," and "Monarch Cove."

"Family Weekend" may not win any awards, but it is a heart-warming story with hilarious twists and turns at every step. By the end of the movie, it is apparent that sometimes kids do know best.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars