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Alex Gromberg (Michael Douglas) is the man in the middle – between his ageing but feisty father Mitchell (Kirk Douglas) who founded the law firm where Alex works; between his work and his family: wife Rebecca (Bernadette Peters), 11 year old Eli (Rory Culkin) and teenage time bomb Asher (Cameron Douglas). When his mother Evelyn (Diana Douglas) dies, she leaves behind a family that has trouble keeping itself together, with external relationships that do little to help the emotional kerfuffle. 

Review by Louise Keller:
You love ‘em, but at times you can’t stand ‘em. Yes, everyone has a family. And most families have their quirks, their ups and downs, and by golly you have to be Woody Allen to see the funny side of things. But Woody Allen didn’t write this screen play, and although there are moments that touch on the truth, It Runs In The Family is a bit of a curiosity piece, with our curiosity poised on the three generations of the great Douglas Family. While Jesse Wigutow’s screenplay may not be based on the Douglas family, there are certainly resonances that echo loudly and would have to be considered brave to tackle. Firstly, there’s Kirk Douglas’ Mitchell Gromberg, who has suffered a stroke which limits his speech and functionality. Then there’s Michael Douglas’ Alex, whose act of infidelity puts him ‘in the doghouse’ (as Mitchell would say), and on the couch at night. Son Cameron Douglas plays Asher whose dalliance with drugs gets him on the wrong side of the law and his girl. But connections with real life aside, It Runs In The Family is a gentle character based comedy that explores communication between three generations of a family, who love each other, but are very different in the way they communicate and lead their lives. Take Rory Culkin’s Eli (another talented Culkin starts to blossom!), who presents his parents with a spreadsheet in order to clarify why he needs an allowance increase. And Alex, who tries hard to talk to his family, but doesn’t succeed very well. Fred Schepisi tries to bring all the strands together, but it’s Paul Grabowski’s jazzy score that has the most glue, and the repeated tune ‘You’ll Never Know’ sung by Bobby Darin and then later, by Diana Krall, is what stays with us after the films is over. Performances are excellent – in particular Kirk steals the film, Cameron is impressive and young Rory is superb. The film explores the relationships between the generations. There are the connections between the husbands and wives (of two generations), grandfather and son (and grandson), father and sons, and finally between siblings – two brothers separated by some years and very different characters. Plus, we meet a couple of other characters – girls who attract the two sons. But, unlike On Golden Pond, when Henry and Jane Fonda brought some of their personal tension to the screen and delivered high-impact emotional punch, It Runs In The Family plays out pleasantly with some well observed moments, but never totally satisfies. It’s a real shame the film doesn’t work better, because it was obviously a work of love for the Douglas family, and I imagine many, like me, are willing it to be better than it actually is.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Made with love and affection, It Runs In The Family rides on our respect for its main cast, father and son Douglas. The former, 86 at time of shooting his 86th film (as Michael points out) suffers from post-stroke speech difficulties, but his spirit and his professionalism overcome that with a performance that makes an excellent full stop to his legendary career. I get the feeling that the script was the nearest thing around for this much desired casting combination to be put into effect. Maybe it was even rushed through development to get it into production as soon as possible. What’s wrong with it? It’s too nice. The dark edges are lightened up, the potential for deep probing with a sharp scalpel is avoided with a blunt razor and the emotional payoffs are insignificant. On the plus side, the performances are great, down to little Rory Culkin, the cinematography excellent and the direction confident and as punchy and schmalz-free as the script allows. It is after all, as much about old age and death as it is about family and life. At one stage, old Kirk’s Mitchell advises his wife, “Don’t get old.” She takes his advice too much to heart. But it’s not a gloomy film at all. Schepisi highlights (with enjoyable subtlety) the four key relationships: father & son (Mitchell & Alex); husband & wife (Alex and Rebecca); teenager & girlfriend (Asher & Michelle); kid and potential girl friend (Culkin & Abby). From these there are branches to the other relationships, and the film’s main strength is Schepisi’s ability to weave them together into a coherent and meaningful picture. It lacks the tension to make it zing, but boasts a great soundtrack with no expense spared.

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CAST: Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Bernadette Peters, Rory Culkin, Cameron Douglas, Diana Douglas, Michelle Monaghan, Geoffrey Arend, Sarita Choudhury, Irene Gorovaia

PRODUCER: Michael Douglas

DIRECTOR: Fred Schepisi

SCRIPT: Jesse Wigutow


EDITOR: Kate Williams

MUSIC: Paul Grabowsky

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrizia Von Brandenstein

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes




VIDEO RELEASE: March 17, 2004

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