Friday, February 14, 2020

Except for Louis-Dreyfus, it's mostly all 'Downhill' for alleged comedy remake

Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus play happy on a mostly failed family vacation.
Near the beginning of "Downhill," a shaky redo of the Critics' Choice and Cannes-winning "Force Majeure," a young lad ever-so-slowly zig-zags on skis toward his parents and an older brother, all urging him toward the bottom of an Austrian resort mountain. And, that's about as fast -- or funny -- as it gets from there, despite a mom and dad being played by the grand Julia Louis-Dreyfus and a clownish Will Ferrell, likely still an acquired taste for some after all these years.

In fact, Ferrell never really captures the attempted spirt of any of it. Honestly, he plays his same ol' dork/doofus from beginning to end and, if that's the way co-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash persuaded him to go, well shame on them.

As it does in the easily superior 2014 original, the story revolves around the less-than-caring way a father, in this case Ferrell's self-centered Pete, appears to react to the "controlled" avalanche that seriously interrupts his scenic lunch with wife Billie and their boys. As media types love to say, the optics are not good, leading to some rather icy situations on and away from the snow.

A kind of obnoxious supporting cast does not help much, including the oversized performance from Miranda Otto, as a sexually aggressive resort regular. What amounts to a cameo by "Game of Thrones" mainstay Kristofer Hivju, who portrayed an entirely different character in "Force Majeure," only produces some nervous laughs, too.

That leaves Louis-Dreyfus to carry the gist of the dramedy balancing act playing out here. Certainly on the comic end, her uncomfortable scene with a seductive ski instructor (Giulio Berruti) pays off with the movie's biggest guffaw. The talented lady needs to do more films.

Rated "R": some language and sexual material; 1:25: $ $ out of $5

(Also opening for this lengthy Presidents' Day/Valentine's Day weekend: "Sonic the Hedgehog," "The Photograph," and "Fantasy Island." For the record, we were unable to attend screenings for the former two, while the latter was not screened for critics.)

No comments: