Director Jessie Nelson has released just two movies over the past two decades -1994's Corrina, Corrina and 2001's Oscar-nominated I Am Sam - and unfortunately the 14-year wait for her third is like Christmas dinner for vegetarians - all Brussels sprouts and no meat.

Christmas with the Coopers (called Love the Coopers in the US) follows a dysfunctional family and their holiday-season reunion as four generations reluctantly try to get along for just one day. Narrated by a cookie-gobbling dog called Rags (voiced by Steve Martin), the festive flick has a similar template to New Year's Eve (2011), Valentine's Day (2010) and Love Actually (2003) with multiple sub-plots forming one overall story.

Devoted parents Charlotte and Sam Cooper's (Diane Keaton and John Goodman) marriage has been hanging on by a thread ever since their kids flew the nest.

The Coopers' son Hank (Ed Helms), a deflated divorced dad of three kids, has been hiding the fact that he's lost his job as a family portrait photographer and is praying for a Christmas miracle. Their single daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) ends up meeting a soon-to-be-deployed soldier (Jake Lacy) in an airport meet cute and brings him home.

Along the way we also become acquainted with the lonely old granddad (Alan Arkin) who befriends a diner waitress (Amanda Seyfried); a kleptomaniac aunt (Marisa Tomei), Hank's lovestruck and angst-ridden eldest son (Timothée Chalamet) and the flatulent Aunt Fishy (June Squibb) who dispenses inappropriate language by the truckload.

Writer Steven Rogers (PS I Love You) knows how to tug at heartstrings and uses occasional glimpses of past events to pique viewers' interests but the characters quickly wear thin and their situations are unconvincing. 

One storyline between Marisa Tomei's troubled lonely heart and a gay policeman (Anthony Mackie) feels like it's going somewhere remotely interesting but quickly falls flat.

The ensemble give the scant material their all, and this may be Olivia Wilde's most impressive performance to date, but the contrived plot, forced sentimentality and painfully predictable climax overshadow their work.

Christmas with the Coopers won't fill you with festive cheer but classics from Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sprinkled throughout the movie provide some welcome warmth.

It may not be the movie gift viewers are looking for under this year's film tree, but it has just enough heart to stop you from turning into The Grinch. And it will remind you to spend the holidays with the people you love - no matter how annoying they may be.

Laura Delaney