Get your gobble on with our Top 12 Dysfunctional Thanksgiving Movies
Posted Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 6:02 PM Central
by Tim Briscoe
It's Thanksgiving. The turkey is reduced to pile of bones and there's plenty of leftovers to last until Christmas. The pumpkin pies are cooling off in the kitchen while the family has retired to the living room for a rousing game of charades.
Sound familiar? Are you tired of the same old games and the same old winners? Well then, we're here to help. What better way to bring about family unity and joy, than watching the dysfunction of others?
We've gathered together 12 must-see movies for the holiday. It's something we call Dysfunctional Thanksgiving Theater. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll see your own dysfunctional family in a whole new light.
Dutch (1991)What's a family holiday without a good road movie? Fair enough, we do have a few on our list. Ed O'Neill (a.k.a. Al Bundy), must drive his girlfriend's spoiled brat of a son, Doyle (a young Ethan Embry), home from boarding school for Thanksgiving. Nothing says traditional family values than that obligatory family meal twice a year because not even the boarding schools are open Thanksgiving or Christmas. It seems that Doyle's dad, Christopher McDonald (you know, Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore), would rather spend his Thanksgiving with his new young fling than with his flesh and blood. What ensues is a cross-country journey of epic child pranks that leaves Doyle and Dutch broke, carless and stranded in Indiana. Yikes!
Son-in-Law (1993)This one is a classic from Pauly Shore's oeuvre. You know, back before he was annoying. Wait, who am I kidding? Pauly Shore has always been annoying. The Weasel stars as Carla Gugino's faux fiance. She brings home the uber unusual Pauly to her family farm for Thanksgiving. The live turkey death by heart attack is a nice touch. The flicks includes a fresh from Saved By the Bell Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as a rural tramp.
Pieces of April (2003)Katie Holmes is the black sheep of the family. She invites her perfectly suburban clan over to her grubby Manhattan apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. April battles every imaginable problem -- including a broken oven -- in the meal preparations. The journey by her parents and siblings to NYC marked by an animal burial and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Patricia Clarkson is great as April's terminally ill mother.
Home For The Holidays (1995)When you have Robert Downey Jr. in your family, you can be sure that your family gatherings are going to be anything but normal. Holly Hunter stars as a mother who must confront the unthinkable, that her daughter is growing up and conversely that her own mortality is creeping ever closer. These are some pretty tough issues to face at any point in your life but when it happens that you've just been fired, it can be quite frightening indeed. And when you throw in a family full of nut cases, well the dysfunction almost registers off the scale!
Scent of a Woman (1992)HOO-WA! Nothing says dysfunction quite like a retired Lieutenant Colonel. It seems that almost every family get together movie worth its salt has a ex army patriot in the mix to insure that the country's honor is upheld. Al Pacino won his best actor Oscar for portraying the rough Lt. Col. Frank Slade, a hero that lost his sight for the country that he loves so much. Not to be deterred from enjoying life, Frank sees life more fully than most people with perfect vision. Charlie Simms (Chris O'Donnell) is a young student looking to earn some extra money over the Thanksgiving holiday by "babysitting" the Colonel while the Colonel's niece is out of town. Easy money he figures until the Colonel decides that he's going to spend Thanksgiving in New York and kill himself to boot. Charlie and Frank develop a unique relationship that teaches each of them the importance of life.
The Myth Of Fingerprints (1997)Who says that you can't go home again? Not Noah Wyle, that's for sure. Noah, yes that Noah Wyle from ER fame, comes home, after three years away, to a family that he barely recognizes. The patriarch, Roy Scheider, is a stoic and unforgiving father who still won't go near the water. His sister is oversexed and his brother couldn't get any if it hit him in the nose. The harsh reality of this movie is how closely it hits home on many different levels. However, be forewarned, the ultra slow pace of this picture may accelerate the Tryptophan's ability to lull your loved ones into a coma. But hey, maybe that's not such a bad idea after all.
What's Cooking? (2000)Four diverse families come together separately in each of their L.A. homes for Thanksgiving. There are the African-American Williamses, the Hispanic Avilas, the Jewish Seeligs, and the Vietnamese Nguyens. The different ethnic foods in each family play a supporting role. The ensemble cast including Joan Chen, Julianna Margulies, Kyra Sedgwick, Alfre Woodard, and Dennis Haysbert is top notch. Director Gurinder Chadha intertwines everything beautifully. How dysfunctional is it? Well, let this quote be your guide. It's spoken by a young girl pretending with her friend: "We're playing Thanksgiving... She's the mommy, she's the daddy and I'm the alcoholic, cult-worshiping, Satanic stepmother!"
Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)Who better to present dysfunction to the audience of America than Woody Allen. No, this is not a documentary taken during Thanksgiving at the Allen household -- although that would be a hoot. Hannah And Her Sisters presents the dysfunction of family and the trials and tribulations that a family must endure over time. Woody Allen brings together one of his trademark casts with stars such as Barbara Hershey, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, and Dianne Wiest, not to mention then unknowns Julia Louis-Dreyfus and John Turturro. The dysfunction in this family runs almost as deep as the love between the three sisters as the intermingling of affairs threatens to destroy the very foundation of the family. A very moving motion picture, perhaps Woody Allen's best.
The House of Yes (1997)If you think your family is in the running for "Dysfunctional Family Of The Year," you'd better check out this movie to get an appreciation of the competition. Marty seems normal until he brings his fiance, Tori Spelling, home to meet the family. The incestuous Jackie-O, played brilliantly by Parker Posey, becomes enraged making this Thanksgiving one to remember for the ages. A thrilling recreation of JFK's assassination provides the standard to which all dysfunctional families must be judged.
The Ice Storm (1997)What's better than a dysfunctional family? A neighborhood full of dysfunctional families! And what's better than a neighborhood full of dysfunctional families? A neighborhood full of dysfuntional families living in the '70s! The times, yes, they were a-changing and everyone in The Ice Storm seems to be having a difficult time adjusting. Whether it's Kevin Kline and his need to augment his marraige with an affair with the uber-dominatrix neighbor, Sigourney Weaver or his daughter, Christina Ricci, who takes it upon herself to welcome the whole neighborhood into manhood, dysfunction is the only word to describe it. The depiction of the "Key Party," in which women choose their sexual partners by drawing the guy's car keys out of a jar paints a clear picture of the confusing times they were in and the effect that the times had on the typical American family.
What do you think? Were there any films involving Thanksgiving dysfunction that we forgot? Please let us know.