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Word Count: 409
With a bland and unrevealing title like Stepmom you might half expect a horror film about the mad matriarch of a dysfunctional family Thats not the case here Rather Stepmom is another a long tradition of three-hankie weepies and a rather archetypical one at that Luckily this tearjerking comedy-drama compensates for its familiar structure with several superior performances Luke and Jackie Harrison Ed Harris and Susan Sarandon have been divorced now for two years They have joint custody of their two children aspiring magician Ben Liam Aiken and the uncontrollably angry Anna Jena Malone Luke and Jackie are still on fairly good terms until Lukes girlfriend Isabel Julia Roberts moves in with him Isabel is a career photographer who has had no experience with kids She tries but nothing she does can live up to the perfect example of motherhood Jackie Ben and Anna love tormenting her and Jackies shrewish attitude doesnt make Isabel feel welcome either But theres another piece to this puzzle Something which will cause everyone involved to reevaluate their feelings and attitudes But can this non-traditional family bond together in a time of true crisis Stepmom shamelessly goes overboard in its attempts to manipulate your emotions It pulls out every stop and utilizes every trick in the book to wring that one last tear from your body It performs these tasks strictly according to the tearjerker textbook If youve seen even one tearjerker before this one youll know exactly where the plot is going Still there is considerable talent involved here And despite the blatant manipulation the excellent performances that permeate the film somehow manage to redeem Stepmom Both Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts excel in the lead roles Ed Harris when hes not busy being under-utilized is a joy to watch as well Even the children are above par for this sort of film though Liam Aiken was seemingly cast
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