Have Yourself a Dysfunctional Little Christmas
On first glance "Together Again for the First Time" looks like just another one of those Christmas movies about a dysfunctional family coming together as we watch the comedy of arguments before goodwill takes over and people hug and make up. In fact if you've seen "The Family Stone" then you will know pretty much what to expect from "Together Again for the First Time" as they are very similar with the major difference is one is a big budget movie and the other a much smaller movie. But the thing about "Together Again for the First Time" is that it feels like a movie of two halves, with the first half being all about the arguments and the comedy whilst the second half strives for some deeper meaning and a message about the importance of family. Sadly whilst a noble effort this attempt at a feel good Christmas comedy about a dysfunctional family doesn't quite come off, feeling forced and at times just a poor imitation.
Roger Wolders (Kirby Heyborne) is heading home to spend Christmas with his family for the first time in a long time and he is taking his girlfriend Brenda (Larisa Oleynik - 10 Things I Hate About You) with him. But Robert isn't looking forwards to spending Christmas with the family as he doesn't get on with his step sisters and finds his mum over powering. And Roger is not the only one not looking forwards to spending Christmas with the family as his step sister Chinelle (Lauren Storm) has a new boyfriend Carey (Joseph Lawrence - Android Apocalypse) who just happened to be her sister Sandra's (Kelly Stables) former boyfriend. But all these issues are eclipsed when various secrets come to the surface and look likely to spoil Christmas for all the family.
So as already mentioned "Together Again for the First Time" is a Christmas movie of two halves and the first half is most definitely all about the comedy, right from the start as we meet Roger who happens to look like Luke Wilson mixed with Jon Heder. Sadly it immediately made me think of and comparing it to "The Family Stone" as much of what happens during this first half as we meet the family; the brothers, sisters, parents, boyfriends etc also lead me to think of other Christmas movies all about dysfunctional families. Basically it feels like it has heavily drawn on other Christmas movies to create the set up which sees Roger returning home with his girlfriend Brenda and arguing with his step sisters whilst his brother Jason tries to hide his drug habit.
Now to be honest whilst this first half of "Together Again for the First Time" feels like it is often imitating the comedy found in other Christmas movies it does a good job of keeping things moving. There are very few gaps where it loses momentum and whilst some of the gags are repeated they do tend to make you smile, not laugh just smile.
But then there comes the point where the focus switches and the comedy goes and we dig beneath the surface of this dysfunctional family as secrets come to the surface. And most of this comes from Roger being accused of taking drugs when he chooses to cover for Jason. It's a very obvious switch in mood as the various issues come to the surface and sadly it becomes too manufactured as it tries to deliver the message about how family is important. If only the two sides of the movie had managed to merge and feel like a natural progression then maybe "Together Again for the First Time" wouldn't have come across as being forced and manufactured.
As for the acting well to be blunt whilst there are some recognizable names and faces such as David Ogden Stiers, Julia Duffy, Larisa Oleynik and Joseph Lawrence none of them really make a lasting impact. The trouble really comes from the fact that all the characters from the pushy mother through to the bitchy step daughter are all walking dysfunctional cliches and often are very familiar to a character in another movie. So whilst no one puts in a bad performance no one manages to make their character come to life.
What this all boils down to is that "Together Again for the First Time" is not a bad movie but suffers because it is so similar to bigger budget dysfunctional family Christmas. It means that far too often it feels like an imitation despite having a couple of unique story elements and sadly because the movie is so clearly split in two going from comedy to drama it just doesn't flow. As such whilst it has a heart warming message "Together Again for the First Time" is not really the sort of Christmas movie which will get you in the festive mood.
Tags: Christmas Movies