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IT RUNS IN THE FAMILY

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Cameron Douglas, Diana Douglas, Rory Culkin, Bernadette Peters
Director: Fred Schepisi
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Surround
Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 109 Minutes
Release Date: October 21, 2003

  “Are you bangin’ her?”

“Not yet, grandpa.”

“Well, WHY NOT?”

Film ***

As hard as it is for me to believe, It Runs In The Family is the first time Michael and Kirk Douglas have ever acted onscreen together.  Over 100 movies have been made between them, and never once have they conspired to share screen time, until now.

Michael Douglas plays New York lawyer and family man Alex Gromberg.  Alex has a beautiful wife, two kids and beautiful home.  It seems as though Alex’s life is perfect!  Well, with the exception that his father doesn’t approve of his decision not to become a partner in the family law firm. 

Oh yes, and there is the little issue of his twenty-two year old son, who is a drug dealer and failing his fifth year in college, the wife who craves attention that is being given to a soup kitchen worker dying to get into his pants, and his thirteen year old son who is apparently in need of some serious therapy, which is never more apparent then after he presents his parents with spreadsheets detailing the trending his allowance should follow over the next six months!  OY!

The first thing that struck me about this film was that the story really didn’t go anywhere. It was very normal, and very well written, but there really wasn’t any power behind it. Yes, you have some very well known actors in this film, and yes, it is a momentous occasion bringing these two Hollywood heavy hitters together…however, no amount of acting in the world can fix a bad story/script ,and this one suffers because of that fact. 

What was very interesting and surprising was watching three generations of the Douglas family interact onscreen.   They all share an obvious resemblance, and their acting styles are very similar.  Small, subliminal gestures are sometimes introduced in a film to show similarity between family members.  That isn’t needed with this film at all because from scene to scene you’ll find the similarities that are genetically inherent to all three.  That is definitely what gives this film the family centric feel it has.

Bernadette Peters plays Alex’s lonely wife.  I do not dislike Ms. Peters as an actress, but I honestly don’t recall having much exposure to her and her style of acting.  I do realize that she is a respected Hollywood actress with many movie credits to her name, I just don’t have a lot of background to base an opinion on.  Having said that, I really didn’t care for the whiney nature of the character she played. 

She thinks her husband has cheated on her, and she throws a temper tantrum, then everything is okay.  She’s up, she’s down, she’s up, she’s down, and I had a hard time following the character.  As an actress, she delivered what she was given; it just fell flat in my opinion.

On the same note, Cameron Douglas didn’t thrill me with his performance in this movie.   To his credit he is still young, and has plenty of time to refine his craft.  That will take some hard work on his part if this film is any indication of his abilities.

What surprised me a little more than it should have was the acting talent of Rory Culkin, kid brother to McCauley Culkin.  Rory did the confused and questioning adolescent teen without flaw.  I saw the same talent in him that Hollywood saw in his older brother a few years ago.  I hope he gets the opportunity to work more in the near future, because true and natural talent is a rare commodity.

Kirk is inspiring beyond words in this film.  Despite the lack of good story, and dialogue, simply seeing him on screen again is wonderful and amazing in itself. Suffering a stroke and some other minor complications haven’t slowed down this Hollywood legend.  The first movie I ever saw him in was The Villain.  That was without a doubt one of the funniest westerns I’ve ever seen, and he was absolutely brilliant to watch! 

I’ve been watching Michael’s movies since the early 80s, and seeing him and his father together for the first time was a very momentous moment in cinema history.  In my humble opinion, of course!

The story isn’t great, but the chance to see these two acting together was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  If you can forgive the bad story, and scripting then you’ll definitely get a kick out of the Douglas family dynamics as they play out on screen.  

Video ***

This DVD was a very nice visual experience.  

The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer was very crisp and clean.  All of the colors were bright and vivid giving the over all look and feel of the movie a hand up.  There was very little dirt or graininess visible in any actual movie scenes. However in the extra features, the deleted scenes were very rough and unclean.

Very soft lighting was used during most of the scenes, but that didn’t make detract from any part of this DVD.  Even though the actors were sometimes bathed in darkness and shadow, the images were still vivid to some degree whether it be a silhouette or an outline.

A very nice viewing experience, with a lot of attention to detail and quality!

Audio ***

The audio on this DVD was crisp and clear from the first tone to the last music fade.  The dialogued was balanced against the different styles of music throughout in a way that kept the over all feel the movie was shooting for and at the same time allowed each scene to have it’s own personality.

The levels between the featurettes and the actual film didn’t waver all that much.  There were no dips or dropouts in the audio that could be detected.

Features ***

MGM took some time with this DVD and manages to put some oomph behind these extras!

Audio commentary by director Fred Schepisi, is included for your listening pleasure.  He really enjoyed this film, and enjoyed working with the Douglas family.  

Two featurettes, Family Makes You Nuts: The Making of It Runs In The Family and All That Grit: Kirk Douglas and The Movies, are included and both are a complete joy to watch.  The featurette on Kirk Douglas was extremely entertaining.  Despite his age and medical problems, he’s still a feisty old bird!

Deleted Scenes, a Photo Gallery of images, and the Original Theatrical Trailer are three of the smaller features on this DVD, but they pack a punch.

Language options for English, French, and Spanish are available, along with subtitles matching each.

Interactive menus lead you full circle with this DVD’s extra features.

Summary:

This DVD was put together very well, and contains decent set of extras.  Being able to watch the Douglas family as a family was fun, as well as funny.  Give this disc a spin and enjoy the past, present, and future of Hollywood!