ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  fred schepisi

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  comedy

LENGTH  -  109 minutes

RELEASED  -  25 april 2003


OFFICIAL SITE  -  The Family

it runs in the family - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from it runs in the family at

buy the dvd from it runs in the family at

the story of a dysfunctional new york family, and their attempts to reconcile.

is the first film michael and kirk douglas have starred in together.


picture from it runs in the family

picture from it runs in the family

picture from it runs in the family


two out of four possible stars

It takes a good sixty minutes to learn enough about Kirk Douglas's patterns of speech to understand half of what comes out of the man's mouth, and when one finally figures out just what he's saying, it's a pity it doesn't involve more interesting dialogue. Existing as a sort of bloated tribute to the acting genes of the Douglas family, It Runs In The Family has its heart in the right place, but misses influencing the hearts of the audience with it's long scenes that are short on real emotion. Though there are a few entertaining jokes (most of which are in the trailer), and one tissue-worthy moment, it's hard to find any superior examples of either genre (drama or comedy) in the entire film.

Once cannot help but think that this movie was conceived and created more as a labor of love for its participants and producers as being a fan of the Douglas clan seems to be a requisite for complete enjoyment of this film. Like the Hollywood-offspring infused Orange County of 2002, this movie is a much more personal portrait of the Douglas family than any lively fictional creation. And while the story of Family may indeed be complete fiction, it's hard to keep that in mind when it's obvious nothing much happens in the movie. The film begins and ends rather in the middle of a story, but strangely, the film still teeters on for a good ten or fifteen minutes too long.

Although the Family is introduced for a good half-hour, those introductions could easily have taken place during movement in the story, rather than in the slow reveals that litter the first act. And as the conclusion drags on for a laughable amount of minutes, never really concluding its story, it is a mystery as to why the ending (or last act) was made to be so long, if the filmmakers did not intend on resolving the stories of the characters. Perhaps the lack of "rounding up" in the last moments was an attempt by the writer or editor to push the film in a more independent vein (as in non-Hollywood), but with such a mainstream focus cluttering the rest of the film, making the end of the film so long and so unsatisfying seems out of line with the characteristics of the rest of the film.

But barring further complaints on the narrative (which could have used some major spicing up!), let us continue on to the performances in It Runs In The Family. Now, by and large, the film boasts a decent set of actors performing as well as probably could have been expected, given the material with which they had to work. And although Kirk's speech impediment (stemming from a stroke some years ago) sometimes makes it difficult to understand the humorous side of a scene (about half of the jokes come from Kirk), perhaps a second viewing or having the volume turned up all the way would facilitate additional understanding of his words.

Caught in the middle of his family's insanity, Kirk's real-life son, Michael Douglas, does a more than fair job in delivering his dialogue in an off-the-cuff manner (meaning it seems created on the spot). But again, his performance would have been more impressive if he'd been able to really make a ruckus or raise his voice to bursting. There just seems to have been too many chances not taken in scenes which could have involved intense dramatics (yelling, broken dishes, wild gesticulations).

Coming next in the Douglas line, newcomer Cameron Douglas makes his big-screen debut in an honorable, though not overly impressive way as (predictably enough), Michael's son. Though he has yet to prove he really has his father and grandfather's talents in front of the camera, he still seems a promising actor who might prove worthy if given a more dramatically challenging part. And rounding out the Douglas infused portion of the cast is Diana Douglas, who plays the grandmother (which she is in real-life as well, though she's been divorced from Kirk for a half-century) and has the "sweetest" set of scenes in the film.

Non-Douglas actors Bernadette Peters (playing the wife) and Rory Culkin (playing one of the sons) round out the cast well, though Peters' accent and tone of voice border on the ear-splitting far too often in the film. She seems to have forgotten that a feature film is a different beast than a stage play and looks to have brought too large a stage-presence to her character. Which is ironic, given the film's need for more dramatics. So while some audience members may find this film an endearing portrait of the Douglas family (however fictional the story happens to be), the film will pass most people by as a story without enough drama and lacking in sharp dialogue.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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