Review: “It Runs in the Family”

A TV movie at best and not a good one at that, ‘Runs’ is one of those slice of life dramas combined with elements of a vanity project as the Douglas clan rules 2/3 of the major roles.

The thing is with such strong talent in front of the camera and the solid hand of Director Fred Schepsi behind it, this should have been a tour-de-force but instead we get something which is trying to be a weighty study of family issues but uncomfortably takes things all too seriously without a hard exploration of the emotions involved.

Schepsi’s direction seems oddly strained, the Aussie director is famous for his very slow and careful pacing but with such a weighed down script its the entirely wrong style for the material which would’ve benefitted from a snappier touch.

This is one acting family which can at least act though. Despite his stroke-caused speech difficulties, Kirk Douglas is still a presence on-screen and his scenes with ex-wife Diana provide a sweet and warm touch to the movie, whilst him and Michael play off each other both believably and with the odd moment of fun.

Even youngster Cameron makes an impressive debut as the son and all do better work than the non-related co-stars such as Bernadette Peters (where in the hell has she been the last few years?) and Rory Culkin. All struggle to give the material weight and humour but sadly despite trying they seem to fail for the most part – for such a family-oriented movie this seems so cold and flat.

There’s the odd giggle and interesting moment such as a family dinner scene earlier on, to Kirk & Michael’s almost buddy comedy subplot involving a corpse whilst on a drive, but its simply not enough. Much of the drama such as Cameron’s drug dealing, Rory’s young infatuation, Michael’s infidelity, Diana’s depression, etc. run the cliche gamut and not only offer no insight, but rather hamper proceedings.

Schepsi knows how to shoot Manhattan and combines belivable luxurious, urban and natural settings whilst there’s some interesting cinematography and score too. Editing between the various subplots is well handled, but a much stronger script and a director who knows where this meandering film was headed would’ve been of great help.