Movie review of “Love the Coopers”: Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy save this comedy-drama about a family reunion on Christmas Eve. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.

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Toward the end of “Love the Coopers,” a character invokes the spirit of Christmas by mentioning Clarence, the fussy angel from Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

It’s one of many references to other, better movies. And it’s because of scenes like this that you forgive “Love the Coopers” for its shamelessness. It may be too ambitious for its own good, it may be too willing to jerk tears, but its heart is in the right place.

True, there’s a lot to forgive in this comedy-drama about a quarreling couple (John Goodman, Diane Keaton) who gather their clan and attempt to create a “perfect” Christmas Eve. Many flashbacks are used to suggest the impact of holiday-related childhood traumas.

Movie Review ★★½  

‘Love the Coopers,’ with Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei. Directed by Jessie Nelson, from a screenplay by Steven Rogers. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and sexual references. Several theaters.

The ghosts of Christmas pasts are everywhere, and they threaten to drown the movie in psychobabble, especially when a shoplifting daughter (Marisa Tomei) is analyzing her relationships. It’s up to a young couple (Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy) to create a romantic charade that stays fresh and tense.

She comes up with the idea of pretending that this couple is really a couple. She picks him up at a bar, he agrees to the deception and they meet her folks. It works because the actors are up to the challenge.

Wilde is at her best suggesting how conflicted her character is. Lacy’s work in “Obvious Child” and on HBO’s “Girls” indicates he’s on the verge of a career breakthrough. Together they make you care about what happens next.