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Everybody's Fine

EVERYBODY'S FINE - 2009, Kirk Jones
Stars: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore

Everybody’s Fine is a remake of an Italian film with the same title, which was released in 1990. Robert De Niro plays Frank, a lonely old man who attempts at a reunion with his busy adult children. When they all cancel on him last minute, Frank decides to take a trip and show up at their places unexpectedly. We learn vague details about the past as Frank tries to repair all of the family relationships. The premise is interesting enough, but the way the film plays out is too saccharine and manipulative to allow the audience to contribute anything.

This is a film in which the architecture of the screenplay is almost physically visible. It’s so painfully clichéd that we can calculate when the next laughs will come, or when we’ll be expected to cry next. It has plenty of potential in its study of adult family dynamics, but writer/director Kirk Jones is too forceful with the content and the result is off-putting.

Robert De Niro is an actor of devastating emotional ability. His talent knows no bounds, despite the hit-and-miss nature of his career lately. He has moments of power in this film, and he manages to rise above the screenplay for the most part. However, the material doesn’t give him enough to work with, and it represses his full capabilities. Nevertheless, he’s the strongest part of this feature and faithful fans of his work should give it a look.

The same can’t be said for the rest of the cast. Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale play De Niro’s children, and none of their characters are written with much texture. Drew Barrymore is surprisingly strong considering what she’s given, and I enjoyed some of the scenes she shared with De Niro. On the other hand, Beckinsale and Rockwell struggle visibly with their roles, and neither of them manage to turn in particularly memorable performances.

The lack of adequate character development amplifies the problems with the story. The conclusion of this movie is so generic and overly sentimental that it squashes any potential it had. It’s the kind of forgettable holiday film that comes out every year, which is unfortunate because I think it could have been better with these actors and themes.

MY RATING: 2.5/5