I’m not precisely sure who pitched the idea for a juggalo family dramedy, but here we are. Family offers nothing new to push forward character development or storytelling, but it does offer up some relatably imperfect characters.
Starring Taylor Schilling as Kate, Family follows a well known plot trajectory. Kate is a workaholic who has no emotional attachment and cannot really relate to anyone. When her brother and his wife (Eric Edelstein and Allison Tolman) ask her to watch their ‘tween daughter, Maddie (Bryn Vale), Kate is visibly unexcited. For as much of an emotionally removed grump as Kate is, Maddie matches her as a kid who knows what she likes and doesn’t care about not fitting in.
Maddie prefers karate to ballet, and she likes to make weapons out of sticks she finds in the backyard. Her parents are not the most understanding, but Kate doesn’t seem to care either way. When Maddie meets a young juggalo who goes by “Baby Joker” (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido), she feels like she’s finally found a clan who accept her for who she is.
Predictably, each of the players in this story goes through a period of emotional growth and learns all sorts of lessons. Kate learns what it means to care about someone other than herself. Maddie learns to love herself as she is, homemade weapons and all. Her parents learn that their daughter only needs to be happy to thrive. All of this would make for a clichéd exercise in rehashing well-worn movie plots, if not for the juggalos.
Throughout Family, the secondary catalyst for character development (behind Kate babysitting Maddie in New Jersey) is the introduction of the juggalos. Baby Joker might not have a solid grasp on proper English or a clear purpose in life, but he’s a friend to Maddie when she needs one. He’s willing to share his interests (primarily Insane Clown Posse) with her and wants to learn about her in return. Much of Baby Joker’s kindness and decency are owed to the lessons he learned from his ICP family.
Even with this impetus and a cinematic climax that involves a field of clown makeup, Family is not really about the juggalos or about ICP. It tries to shoehorn the story into a framework that allows for the influence of unlimited love, but the source of that love is not as instrumental to the love itself.