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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 42.86%
Pretty Bad: 9.52%
Total Crap47.62%

2 reviews, 9 user ratings

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It Runs in the Family
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by Erik Childress

"Unless Your Name Is Eric Douglas"
1 stars

Which family would that be? The nepotism-plagued Douglas clan that features, count ‘em, four actors bearing the family name? Or could it be the “oh, here’s another one” Culkin gang whose latest addition is co-starring in a film that bears the same name of a 1994 film in which brother Kieran tried to recapture the magic of Jean Shepherd’s A CHRISTMAS STORY? Now that was a film about family. The long-awaited pairing of father/son Kirk & Michael (at least, by them) isn’t about magic, but a thoroughly depressing exercise that can’t even be summed up in the titles of the screenwriter’s previous works, UGLY NAKED PEOPLE and SWEET FRIGGIN' DAISIES.

No one wants to dump on Kirk Douglas. Lord knows, he probably still could kick anyone’s ass in the room. But its impossible to play the sympathetic soul when he forces his way through scripts like Diamonds and this one. In it he plays Mitchell Gromberg, a stroke victim (naturally) who is told by his doctor that he still has “a few good years.” (The film’s original title.) Michael is his son Alex, a lawyer who despite running for public office ten years ago, still keeps his campaign signs in boxes around the office. Diana Douglas plays Kirk’s wife and Cameron Douglas plays Michael’s son. These are not stretch roles for any of them; although Cameron may actually be playing Eric Douglas (Michael's brother). The Culkin lad plays the youngest son while Bernadette Peters tries to sing half her lines as the wife.

The issues that plague this dysfunctional lot range from the usual “you wouldn’t let me drive your precious car” to the most outrageous and poorly tasted subplots that aren’t treated like quirky comic traits. What would a Michael Douglas film be without banging someone in the kitchen? The soup kitchen, no less, as a co-worker (Sarita Choudhury) wants a hold of the family jewels. Despite Choudhury’s involvement with the Kama Sutra film, her and Douglas have more than enough trouble trying to find a comfortable position to engage in adultery.

Cameron’s Asher is a college slacker who sells pot full-time and begins a relationship with a good girl apparently just itching to go bad (Michelle Monaghan). Rory Culkin’s Eli has a crush on a “sixth grade gutter whore” that ran away with a now jealous skateboarding punk who is angry that she never finished him off. Eli’s mother is also concerned that he’s not very communicative with them rather than being proud that their young son could create a detailed spreadsheet to ask for an allowance raise. There’s even concern over grandpa showing him how to deal with bullies despite Eli participating in regular karate lessons.

Oh, and this film is just getting warmed up. The matriarch of the family dies just as Bernadette’s Rebecca discovers planted panties from the spurned shelter slut. Mitchell’s brother is a war veteran with no legs and a case of senility, who despite his family’s obvious wealth, has been stuck in a rest home so cheap that when he dies his remains are handed over to the family to dispose of. In this case, his entire body in a body bag for an impromptu Viking funeral complete with a boat & gasoline. The finale of the film gets so crazy without a single wink to self-parody that you don’t know whether to laugh or squint everytime the family receives a new phone call tragedy in a single night.

It’s impossible to postulate whether the screenplay was trying to say something about family problems not being an easy fix since not a single subplot in the film gets resolved. Dying is apparently the only way out. The rich, white non-communicators have so many problems that the poor Mexicans which Alex agrees to help pro-bono, over the objections of his boss, are forgotten about quicker than poor Mexicans in a rich, white world. This film has to be a dark comedy. A bad one to be sure, but it has to be doesn’t it? I know I was laughing when one character presumably ends up rotting in jail after a major bust and whose parting shot is “I never want to see you again.” You’re telling me, sister. That statement ranks amongst the top three lines that DO perfectly describe Jesse Wigutow’s screenplay. The other two being “Could you possibly be more unappealing?” and “You didn’t exactly set the bar all that high.”

I was stunned at the awfulness of IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY. MGM released the similar dysfunctionalness of IGBY GOES DOWN (with Kieran Culkin) last September. It was also an ugly, too clever for its own good family drama. But at least you could tell the tone it was going for. It failed, but it was recognizable. Michael gets three good lines during the film and it’s a shame that with his instincts, he couldn’t find a better project lying around for him and dear ol’ dad to share screen time with. Surely, Kirk’s still got a few good years in him. He could at least find one more good movie to star in.

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originally posted: 04/25/03 08:19:17
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User Comments

10/25/04 Jack Sommersby Formulaic and questionable, but it manages to charm and entertain. 3 stars
5/22/03 Todd at parts aimless, but surprisingly realistic 3 stars
5/13/03 Goofy Maxwell About as welcome as if the Jackson's starred in "Family Matters: The Movie". 2 stars
5/09/03 John I haven't walked out on a movie in years. I did last night. 1 stars
5/03/03 Jackson62 Kirk+Michel+Cameron+Little Culkin Kid=Torture by Notorious Acting Families 1 stars
5/02/03 Linda why oh why did I spend money on this crap 1 stars
4/30/03 Dana Carvey must DIE!!! No masterpiece, but not that bad. A banal story but well told. 3 stars
4/26/03 Andrew Carden Advice To Hollywood Families: Don't Act Together. Tediously Boring and Dated. 2 stars
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  25-Apr-2003 (PG-13)



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