"It’s a fun time."
FAMILY SQUARES (2022)
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"A family matriarch, who wants to reunite her family before she passes."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
Family Squares is a bit of a mixed bag. It's got the clever hook of being a dysfunctional family comedy that takes place mostly over Zoom with a cast that’s quite hilarious in the format, and they all deliver some great laughs; however, technically, the film is quite poor outside of its main storytelling format. It nailed the editing within the Zoom format, but it’s when Family Squares steps out of the video conference format that it starts to falter in ways that’s hard to ignore.
Family Squares starts off with the death of the Worths’ family matriarch, Grandma Mabel, and Cassie (Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fischer) is tasked to gather the entire family over zoom as more and more family secrets are revealed. This is written and directed by Stephanie Laing who, inside the Zoom conference format, is able to have the cast bounce each other in hilarious ways and is able to make her script shine. Honestly, with her premise and execution, some of the film reminded me of Little Miss Sunshine in some of the ways particular aspects of the family are brought into question. There are even small fun bits that comment on the imperfections of this technology, some of its vulnerabilities, and also its place in our everyday life. There’s not a weak spot in its cast which includes the likes of Elsie Fischer, Timothy Simmons, Billy Magnussen, Ann Dowd, Henry Winkler to name a few. There are even other small bits involving only a small handful of these people in the conference format in different situations that are quite fun to watch.
The biggest fault, however, is the film’s decision to step outside of its video conference format and focus on certain characters’ more personal spaces. It’s presentation in these moments is just massively awkward. At times I was feeling the film looked much better visually inside the zoom calls, there are also these weird and long scene transitions with song choices that get grating pretty quickly, and also a very questionable narration. Also, though not as bad or as annoying, the film does have moments where it’s trying too hard to be sincere and emotional, and it's more serious moments come across more as half-baked as a result.
Family Squares is a nice time, but I do feel it does have an opportunity to be stronger and more impactful. It’s a clever dysfunctional family comedy that delivers some quite worthy laughs. However, it’s technical faults are super hard to ignore, and it’s hard to feel like there are quite more opportunities for Family Squares to shine outside of its story and cast that it just doesn’t make or commit to fully. It’s a fun time, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet with what we can do with this format.