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Film review: 'Everybody's Fine' suffers from not-so-fine plotting

Published: Friday, Dec. 4 2009 12:00 a.m. MST

Robert De Niro stars as Frank in "Everybody's Fine," a remake of a 1990 Italian movie.

Abbot Genser, Miramax

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EVERYBODY'S FINE — ★★ — Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell; rated PG-13 (profanity, drugs, vulgarity, slurs, nude art, violence); in general release

The performances in "Everybody's Fine" are, well, fine.

That's no real surprise, especially when you consider the cast. It's the plotting and nearly everything else about the movie that's less than fine.

This comedy-drama, an Americanized remake of a well-regarded, 1990 feature from Europe that starred Marcello Mastroianni, is too by-the-numbers and predictable.

Also, there's the whole matter of its unsure tone. Screenwriter and director Kirk Jones can't decide whether he wants to pluck at our heartstrings, tickle our funny bones or do both things at once.

As a result, the movie feels tentative and strained. It's one of the bigger cinematic disappointments of late.

Sometimes blustery Robert De Niro is fairly restrained in his lead role as a widower named Frank. This retiree has been looking forward to spending some time with his adult children.

In fact, he's invested considerable time and money in a big weekend get-together. So, understandably, he's upset when they all cancel on him.

Never one to take no for an answer, Frank decides he'll go to them instead, starting with his artist son, David, who lives in New York City.

David isn't there, so Frank next drops in on his daughter, Amy (Kate Beckinsale), who's juggling an advertising career and a son, Jack (Lucian Maisel), and who is living in a Chicago suburb.

Next up is Denver, which is where Frank finds his musician son, Robert (Sam Rockwell), who's part of a touring orchestra.

And in Las Vegas, Frank meets up with Rosie (Drew Barrymore), who's trying to make a career out of being a showgirl.

The latter scenes, with likable actors De Niro and Barrymore, should carry more weight and hold our attention more than they do.

Also, Jones ("Nanny McPhee") concentrates most of his efforts on the various family dysfunctions and the communication troubles between parents and children.

These soap opera-ish machinations feel false and half-hearted. And worse, neither Beckinsale nor Rockwell seem particularly committed to their roles.

"Everybody's Fine" is rated PG-13 and features occasional strong profanity (including one usage of the so-called "R-rated" curse word), drug content and references (prescription medications and narcotics), some off-color humor, derogatory language and slurs, glimpses of nude statues and artwork, and a brief violent scuffle (an attempted mugging). Running time: 95 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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