Robert De Niro movie a "Fine" mess

Wed Nov 4, 2009 6:56pm EST
 
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By Kirk Honeycutt

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - There isn't much that's fine in "Everybody's Fine," an embarrassing misfire for Kirk Jones, who once gave us the exhilarating comedy "Waking Ned Devine," and for Miramax, a storied company now reduced to little more than a film library.

Despite a cloyingly sentimental story that rings false in every moment, the production did attract a substantial cast headed by Robert De Niro. It's not going to help though when Disney's downsized specialty unit releases the film December 4.

Sometimes a filmmaker and a project just don't make any sense and "Everybody's Fine" is a case in point. The film is ostensibly a remake of Giuseppe Tornatore's 1990 film "Stanno Tutti Bene." That bittersweet Italian dramedy has been totally Americanized, which is fine, only wouldn't you want an American director aboard to supervise? Jones, who is British and has never made an American film, not only is the director here, he is the writer. His shaky footing on American soil and with American culture is painfully evident.

The movie glides along a surface of complete inauthenticity. Characters have no depth and all emotions get ladled on via a syrupy score and De Niro's strenuous acting. It's a no-go almost from the start.

De Niro plays Frank, a man who has been rough on his kids, demanding their success as payment for his hard work supporting them through their formative years. Now he wonders why no one in his scattered family wants to visit him after their mother died. She was always the buffer but now she's gone.

True to his fashion, he ignores his doctor's advice to take things easy due to a lung condition and hits the road, traveling by bus or train -- he hates airplanes -- to visit his two sons and two daughters unannounced. Sneak attacks are the best approach with this family apparently.

You can pretty much guess that when his wife told him the kids were just fine all those years, she wasn't being frank. Indeed the first son he visits, a painter in New York, has disappeared.

So he drops by a daughter, played by Kate Beckinsale, who lives with her husband and son in a tony Chicago neighborhood. She can't wait to get rid of him but it's clear -- like everything in this movie perhaps too clear -- that something is seriously amiss.   Continued...

 
<p>Actor Robert De Niro arrives at the premiere of the film "Whatever Works" on the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, April 22, 2009.REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>