Cineplex Odeon, Feb. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Star Cinema, Feb. 11, 3 p.m.
Rating: three stars
While Victoria-raised director Andrew Currie’s broad ensemble comedy about a dysfunctional blended family’s enforced get-together in northern Ontario is more schematic than his last festival entry, his wickedly inspired 2007 zombie satire Fido, his assured direction and the contributions of his colourful cast compensate for sketchy character development and narrative issues. Helping Currie’s wintry lark succeed on its own terms is the comic potential of writer Robyn Harding’s scenario set in motion by Ed (James Brolin), the family’s wealthy patriarch, and his free-spirited new fiancée Sherry (played to perfection by a spandex-clad Christine Lahti). Hoping to impress a social worker so they can adopt a young Chinese girl, the estranged father invites his son Jeff (Jason Ritter), an unemployed New York stockbroker, and promiscuous, hard-drinking daughter Marla (Emmanuelle Chriqui), to their fancy lakefront home in Parry Sound to meet their new stepmother and her trashy offspring from different dads. While this cynical pair couldn’t have less in common with these caricatured hicks — Tammy (Kate Corbett), a sweet-natured dimbulb; David (Benjamin Arthur), a pushy redneck paintball business owner; Keith (Steven McCarthy) an angry rock musician and recovering addict; a smart stoner (Vinay Virmani) — the cast collectively pulls off some amusing hijinks that transcend the material’s triteness, notably during a disastrous paintball game. It’s all amusingly diverting, yet strangely familiar.