An Unexpected Family (1996) starring Stockard Channing, Stephen Collins, Christine Ebersole, Noah Fleiss, Chelsea Russo directed by Larry Elikann Movie Review

An Unexpected Family (1996)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Stockard Channing in An Unexpected Family (1996)

Raising Barbara

Anyone who watches movies which are made for TV are likely to have come across a movie or two about a relative unexpectedly finding themselves becoming instant parents to abandoned/ orphaned children, it is a common theme. And if you haven't watched it already "An Unexpected Family" is another one of these "instant family" movies where an aunt has her niece and nephew dumped on her by their mother who selfishly wants to have a new life. As such "An Unexpected Family" has very few surprises as we watch the Aunt struggle with parenting but then bonds and so on and so forth but it makes it none the less entertaining with good performances from Stockard Channing, Noah Fleiss and Chelsea Russo and a general heart warming tone to things.

Barbara Whitney (Stockard Channing - The First Wives Club) has life sorted, she has a good job at a museum and is about to go out on a date when her sister Ruth (Christine Ebersole - Richie Rich) shows up and dumps her kids Matt (Noah Fleiss) and Megan (Chelsea Russo) on her. But it turns out that Ruth is not just dumping them for an evening but totally as she selfishly abandons them to head off to London to try and start a new life for herself. Ill equipped for raising children Barbara initially struggles and doesn't want the children but with the help of her friend Sam (Stephen Collins - Brewster's Millions) warms to being a parent and really bonds with the children. So when 12 months later Ruth returns and wants her children Barbara can't bear to let them go, not just for herself but also for the sake of the children.

Chelsea Russo and Noah Fleiss in An Unexpected Family (1996)

So as already mentioned "An Unexpected Family" is another one of those movies which is all about a person becoming guardian to children. As such you could say that it goes through the expected scenarios as first we watch Barbara struggle with being a parent, not wanting the children and then eventually bonding as they become a tight family unit. It has this mixed style of drama and comedy which gives it a very easy going style, never really getting dramatic but never ever playing things purely for laugh, such as the sister's car outside of Barbara's home having several parking tickets on the window. And this easy going style adds to the general sense of being a heart warming movie.

But then during the final third of the movie things change when Ruth returns and the movie takes a more dramatic turn. In truth it is not hugely dramatic and is quite predictable but it works as the emotion of the story comes to the fore.

The thing about "An Unexpected Family" is that whilst it covers familiar territory it is highly watchable thanks to the acting. Noah Fleiss and Chelsea Russo as Matt and Megan both deliver that sense of being emotionally damaged, relying on each other as they can't rely on anyone else. And then there is Stockard Channing who delivers perfectly that mix of drama and humour, delivering some amusing wise cracks early on but then also showing the bond which is forming between Barbara and her new family.

What this all boils down to is that "An Unexpected Family" is a movie which for many will be familiar because the basic storyline has been explored many times before. But it is still entertaining in an easy going way even if ultimately it is predictable.

Tags: Instant Families