It Runs in the Family (2003)

"OK"

It Runs in the Family (2003) Review


Someone once said of nepotism, "It does a family good." And occasionally, it does a movie good, as well. It Runs in the Family might not have worked so well with, say, Martin and Charlie Sheen, or Tom and Colin Hanks. But with three generations of Douglas actors on hand, the sentimental yet familiar family affair coasts along smoothly and generates enough heat to warm the heart.

The Grombergs are typical urban dwellers who confront extramatal temptations, medical dilemmas and general household turmoil on a daily basis. Alex (Michael Douglas) and his wife, Rebecca (Bernadette Peters), hardly have time for each other, let alone for their two children (Cameron Douglas, Rory Culkin) and Alex's parents (Kirk and Diana Douglas). Though largely independent, the group learns to lean on each other to pull through a sees of emotional challenges.

Most of us expeence the traumas on display in Family for free in our own homes, usually dung the holidays. Unless you come from a long line of acting powerhouses, though, your family squabbles won't look quite as refined as they do here. The Douglas family - more specifically, the Douglas men - bngs a built-in chemistry that draws us in to the Gromberg's comfort circle with ease. When tragedy stkes, we feel it. When danger looms, we sense it and recoil. And when resolutions are reached through sweat and tears, we bask in the glow of acceptance and embrace this motley crew in a cinematic group hug.

Because Family is so well acted and ably directed by Fred Schepisi, the scpt from Jesse Wigutow can get away with pedestan observational humor that makes broad statements about togetherness. Family has a tendency to break its characters into pairs as it analyzes relationships between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, fends and lovers. But with a cast this strong, we're engaged no matter which direction Schepisi opts to flow. Cameron Douglas, in particular, has a rugged charm that serves him well. The son of Michael, his last name might kick down some industry doors, but his talent will keep them open. His interactions with young Rory Culkin possess an unforced "odd couple" quality, with one playing an 11-year-old who has grown up too fast, and the other playing a 21-year-old who refuses to relinquish his adolescence. Hardly new ground, but the actors bng a fresh approach. They're valed by Kirk and Michael's sassy scenes, which also give us some of the strongest father/son conversations put to film.

There's a lot going on here, and Schepisi does an admirable job juggling multiple storylines. The film's third act involves an arrest, a first kiss, and a fiery bual at sea. While congested to a certain degree, Family rarely overplays its scenes for cheap gags, instead digging up subtle truths and humor in poignant situations. Like a broken-in bathrobe, Family is worn at the seams from one too many weangs, but you won't find a more comfortable article of clothing.

My pencil is big and yellow.



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