Directed by Simon Cellan Jones and written by David Coggeshall, The Family Plan stars Mark Wahlberg as Dan, a successful car salesman leading a seemingly typical suburban life with his wife Jessica (Michelle Monaghan), daughter Nina (Zoe Margaret Colletti), son Kyle (Van Crosby), and baby boy Max. The façade of a perfect family begins to crumble as family members reveal hidden aspects of their lives.
Despite his daytime success, family dynamics unfold with his daughter’s struggles with the decision of whether to follow her passion or accompany her boyfriend to college. Kyle (Van Crosby), the teenage gamer with considerable skills, adds typical teenage drama to the family dynamics as he argues with his sister. Meanwhile, Jessica, Dan’s wife, yearns for more excitement and spontaneity after 18 years of a routine marriage. A chance encounter with travel planner Gwen (Maggie Q) reveals Jessica’s sense of entrapment with their new baby and hints at dissatisfaction beyond the teenage conflicts, suggesting that Dan’s contentment in Buffalo might not be universally shared.
While grocery shopping with the baby strapped to his chest, Dan is suddenly attacked and successfully fends off the assailant. However, the intense combat scene is hindered by numerous cuts, obscuring the revelation of Dan’s true badassery making it the first knock against The Family Plan. As the neighborhood witnesses this unexpected side of Dan, the film transforms into a gripping yet comedic family action spy thriller. Now, Dan must secure new identities and a fresh start for his family without revealing the secrets of his past. In terms of setup, it effectively establishes the narrative. While not groundbreaking, the progression in the first act is logical and paves the way for what unfolds.
As Dan gathers his family, he discovers that both his son and daughter have been dishonest about their after-school activities. This revelation shatters the illusion of a perfect suburban family, highlighting that even with Dan’s dedication to routine and structure, teenagers will be teenagers. Despite the disappointment, Dan uses their lies as an opportunity to address issues within the family dynamic, grounding them and making their trip to Vegas more authentic, given the evident challenges in their relationships.
Unable to fly the family to Las Vegas due to expired passports, Dan embarks on a 33-hour drive to meet a contact for new identities. To evade pursuit, he orchestrates a device-free vacation, cleverly tying into the film’s title. More importantly, though, the absence of phones prompts more family interaction, yielding endearing moments among various members. Stops along the journey serve as backdrops for revealing hidden facets of each family member, contributing to modest character development throughout The Family Plan that offers enough heart to keep viewers engaged.
While chase scenes offer excitement, the fight sequences suffer from excessive cuts and lack detailed choreography. I had anticipated that the grocery store scene, with its numerous cuts, would be the exception due to the challenges of handling a baby. Unfortunately, the other hand-to-hand combat scenes in The Family Plan are lackluster in comparison to what fans might typically expect from director Simon Cellan Jones.
As the plot progresses in The Family Plan, the story of Dan’s past gradually unfolds as the focus alternates between his present challenges and those attempting to harm him. This approach slowly reveals the specifics of Dan’s life, building suspense as the audience learns what actions led McCaffery (Ciarán Hinds), Dan’s old associate, to pursue him so relentlessly and why Dan is willing to uproot their entire lives to escape. Although the motives are not unveiled until the third act, marked by a significant twist, this approach allows the film to primarily focus on the family’s development, especially that of the brother and sister. The revelation of Dan’s secret as a former assassin adds a poignant layer to the story, with the family’s initially rational responses highlighting the shattered closeness they had developed during the trip.
At its core, The Family Plan revolves around the idea of family members recognizing each other for who they truly are, not the expectations set by their relatives. Although the plot follows a familiar formula, the journey it takes is imbued with genuine heart, making it an enjoyable experience for families with older children. While the fight sequences may fall short of expectations, they are not the main reason to stay engaged until the end; rather, it’s the palpable chemistry within the family. Every character’s actions come full circle, shining in their own way by the film’s conclusion. The natural twists and turns in the storyline contribute to the overall tension, especially in the third act when the film transitions fully from a road trip family vacation to an engaging family spy thriller.
Stick around for the credits to enjoy family snapshots and playful references to various parts of the movie.
The Family Plan is streaming now exclusively on Apple TV+.
The Family Plan
At its core, The Family Plan revolves around the idea of family members recognizing each other for who they truly are, not the expectations set by their relatives. Although the plot follows a familiar formula, the journey it takes is imbued with genuine heart, making it an enjoyable experience for families with older children.