Lawrence Kasdan hasn’t made a film in ten years – though his sons Jon and (especially) Jake have carried on the family legacy in the interim – and the dust shows all over his lightweight return, Darling Companion. Diane Keaton plays needy Beth, who discovers a dog on the side of the freeway that she takes in and names Freeway, much to the displeasure of workaholic husband Joseph (Kevin Kline). The couple marries off their youngest daughter at their Rocky Mountain retreat and decides to spend the weekend with the rest of their dysfunctional family unit (Diane Wiest, Richard Jenkins, and Mark Duplass).
Of course, Joseph loses sight of Freeway while talking on the phone, so the group is forced to spend the remainder of their vacation searching for him, under the guidance of clairvoyant housekeeper (seriously) Carmen. If the film has one issue above all else, it’s the existence of Carmen, who has visions that the family follow blindly in the search for Freeway and claims to “be one with the animals” because she’s, uh, a gypsy! Yeah! She’s less a character than a machine that spits out contrivances; she’s either the sort of amateur screenwriting tool that someone of Kasdan’s stature shouldn’t have to rely on or a clumsy attempt at magical realism. Worse still, she gets shoehorned into a romance with Bryan in a subplot that doesn’t seem to serve any purpose.
Keaton, as has been her wont recently, alternates between hysterical emotional outbursts and looking good in a pantsuit; regular Kasdan player Kline delivers punchlines well, but he can’t elevate how weak the character is. Wiest is similarly wasted, but the film’s biggest offense is giving Sam Shepard an extended cameo to do nothing more than pass a kidney stone. Of all the cast, Jenkins and Duplass are best in their scenes together, but by the end of the film, the characters don’t seem to have actively grown, evolved, or learned anything other than to be nice to each other. That’s great sentiment and all, but maybe Kasdan should have just adopted another dog instead of making a film.