Picks and Pans Review: The Family Stone

updated 12/19/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/19/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Craig T. Nelson

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You know almost from the first few scenes precisely where The Family Stone is going, but still have a swell time watching it unfold. The secret ingredient to the film's success is the warmth that the Stones—that's Mom (Keaton), Dad (Nelson) and five adult offspring—feel for each other, which makes this bittersweet story of an antic and angst-filled family gathering for Christmas chime true. Do we really think that the goings-on in their comfy New England home—everyone ganging up against a Stone son's uptight New York City girlfriend (Parker), wavering romantic alliances and revelation of an illness—would play out this breezily in real life? No, but credit the lively script and direction by Thomas Bezucha (Big Eden) and a likable cast for making us temporary believers. Keaton, with the showiest role as the loving but judgmental mother, takes top acting honors. The woman can do no wrong. Parker is amusing, and Wilson, as one of the clan, exhibits a slobbish charm. (PG-13)

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