It Runs In The Family

Four years after an 83-year-old Kirk Douglas was carted out for 1999's Diamonds, his humiliating return to the screen after a debilitating stroke, the Douglas men want the world to know that they're still okay, in spite of all the salacious gossip printed about them in the tabloids. Though a marginal improvement over the earlier film–if only for excising a grueling bordello sequence with Lauren Bacall and Jenny McCarthy–It Runs In The Family is essentially the same heartwarming goo about three generations of men quarreling and bonding, with Kirk just as feisty as ever. Which invites the question: If their beloved patriarch reaches 90, will the Douglases produce another treacly status report, or will appearances at the Oscars and celebrity golf tournaments be enough to sate their adoring public? Like Diamonds, It Runs In The Family opens with vintage photographs that are meant as a reminder of the bronzed Adonis that once starred in Champion and Spartacus, but they only underline his frailty in old age, which is then shamelessly mined for melodramatic effect. Compared to other Hollywood royalty like the Sheens or the Barrymores, the level of family dysfunction on display is pretty lightweight, with crises (adultery, girl trouble, a few pot plants) that wouldn't be enough to jumpstart a TV movie. In a pat tale of fathers and sons, each harboring feelings of resentment and disappointment toward the other, the eldest Douglas stars as a former law shark who has passed on his trade to son Michael, but still hasn't lived down his inadequacies in raising him. Their tense relationship compounds Michael's other problems, including a pro-bono case he accepts against one of his multimillion-dollar clients and an almost-affair with a sexy volunteer worker that burdens his marriage to Bernadette Peters. Meanwhile, his uncommunicative sons are getting into trouble: Rory Culkin must deal with girls and bullies, while Cameron Douglas faces drugs and college. Most parents could do worse than raising a shy kid and a slacker (the latter may be the least convincing doper this side of "Scumbag X" in Woody Allen's Hollywood Ending), but the script blows them way out of proportion, suggesting that the real problem here may be over-parenting. When the hippie son forgets to pick up his grandmother after her dialysis treatment, this is apparently supposed to be a shocking development–so shocking, in fact, that it takes their flatulent "Uncle Steve" to break the tension over Passover Seder. Overqualified director Fred Schepisi (Six Degrees Of Separation) makes it all go down easier with a light tone and a sharp eye for New York City locations, but the problems of the Douglas family, on and off the screen, don't amount to a hill of beans.

Filed Under: Film

More Movie Review