"Walken... Caine... Lucas... in... DIAMONDS 2: THE QUEST FOR KFC!"
SCREENED AT THE 2004 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: I can take just about anything when it comes to movies. Topics or situations I’m uncomfortable with, blood and guts presented 4-D style or dancing superbabies telling me I’ve been served. And those are the extreme cases. Normally I don’t flinch more past an eyeroll when hearing things like “road movie” or “multi-generational father/son reconciliations” described for my next screening. But Good Lord, it took all of 11 minutes (the first watch check) of Jordan Roberts’ Around the Bend for me to consider breaking my no-walk-out rule.In those 11 minutes, we have Michael Caine in old coot mode, Glenne Headly as his nurse who loves to watch Ghost Ship and talks like Goldmember and a wacky music score more suited for a Benji film. We are on the fast track of a loooonnnggggg trip here. Caine isn’t going to last much longer, but while he does he would love to go on one last dig with the grandson he raised, Jason (Josh Lucas) and the great grandson who likes to say things like “titties.”
That’s just before his actual son, Turner (Christopher Walken) shows up unexpectedly. A former criminal and drug addict, he left Jason and his mother at a young age soon after a car accident left his son with a debilitating limp. I can’t remember this fact being conveyed before the 75-minute point, leaving me to wonder why Lucas chose to walk with a limp the entire movie. This would be in tune with most of the film’s drama where no one wants to say anything and scenes end with questions that are stubbornly refused to be answered so that they may be saved for later.
Caine kicks off after about 15 minutes, supposedly aware of exactly when he’s going to die so he can drag little Zach to witness his final will and testament. He’s about to send Turner and Jason on a cryptic tour of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s across the country to spread his ashes along with his dog, whom we also get to watch die. This KFC journey is no joke. Caine’s patriarch has included all the clues to their destinations within crumpled up KFC bags, which are only to be opened at the next KFC location because that’s where they shared their final meal. Make no mistake, Around the Bend could easily become the next KFC slogan (“KFC – Just Around The Bend”) and is to the franchise what Bye Bye Love did for McDonalds. The biggest laugh-inducing moment in the film comes when it appears someone has actually bombed a KFC outlet as a means to stop the madness.
Jordan Roberts’ script is a joke going for simplistic metaphors (“diggers dig up old shit”) and ridiculous pitstops even beyond the “restaurants.” When Jason suspects Turner has stolen a Stirling Silver spoon, he walks into a store with Turner and asks to pay for it. Because all stores would be so forgiving. We even get a class in comedic writing along the way, courtesy of the youngest person on screen when revealing where mommy is:
Zach: “She painting in Nipple.” Jason: “Nepal.” Zach: “Nipple is funnier.”Oh, hardy-ho, blah get the hell out of here. This film is like punishment for Josh Lucas showing up and expertly playing the unbelievable bastard in David Gordon Green’s Undertow. The payoff revelation of the father/son relationship is so unworthy of all this trekking and even more unforgivable that we can’t believe anyone would ask us to go along and witness it. The final moment between Walken and Lucas more resembles the Spock/Bones “Remember” moment from Star Trek II, then anything bordering on something we could give two shits about. I suppose Kirk Douglas wasn’t available or at the very least came to his senses after watching It Runs In The Family and Diamonds and realized he couldn’t do another along the same lines as bad as those again.