It Runs in the Family is a film that combines three generations of the Douglas family – patriarch Kirk Douglas, son Michael Douglas and grandson Cameron Douglas (Michael’s son from his 1st marriage). It’s not clear how much this movie resembles their real-life problems but chances are the emotions involved are quite similar.
The movie follows the story of the Grombergs. Mitchell Gromberg (Kirk Douglas) is the founder of the law firm that his son Alex (Michael Douglas) works at. Alex is quickly involved in…an affair with a fellow volunteer at a soup kitchen (Sarita Choudhury). This is an event that gets the movie rolling.
Alex is married to his wife Rebecca (Bernadette Peters) and Mitchell is married to Evelyn (Diana Douglas, who curiously was Kirk’s real life first wife and Michael’s mother – anyone confused yet? I’m just waiting to find out how Catherine Zeta Jones fits into this…) Alex and Rebecca have two sons Asher (Cameron Douglas) and Eli (played by Rory Culkin – they should have just named this movie “Pathology Runs in the Family,” it would have simplified things).
The movie contains a lot of different plots which serve to confuse and dilute a picture that is under 2 hours long. During the course of the movie there are 2 deaths, the near break up of Alex and Rebecca due to his aforementioned infidelity, Asher gets in to trouble with the law due to involvement in drugs and poor Eli gets sucked in by a nose-ring wearing 12 year old girl.
Given the players involved, one would expect very powerful scenes to emit from both Michael and Kirk, but unfortunately they fall rather flat. The martial tension between Alex and Rebecca also seems to be less than believable.
While I believe that in the planning stages of this movie, this looked like it had great potential, unfortunately sometimes things just don’t turn out the way they were planned. Maybe if they did an “Osbournes” style show with the Douglas’ it might have turned out better.
Solid 2.35:1 presentation with sharp colors and warm skin tones. There was no noticeable pixilation or bleeding of color. The black levels during the night scenes were good.
Nothing special here in the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix. This is a story driven movie so clearness of the dialogue is what is most important and this is well done. Not surprisingly there is little use of the surround speakers and the sub-woofer.
The extras include a director’s commentary with Fred Schepisi. This is informative and adds a little to understanding the motivations behind some of the plotlines. There is also a “making of” documentary called “Family makes you nuts” which is comprised of interviews with Michael and Kirk and the other cast members. Michael and Kirk speak about how long they have been wanting to work together on a film and how Kirk’s stroke affected his ability to remain in film. It was also interesting to learn that Kirk and Diana had worked on a film together once before…in 1951! There was a little too much time devoted to how “good” Cameron was, however.
There are 3 deleted scenes which include Evelyn returning to her childhood apartment, the Grombergs preparing to leave for the Seder, and the Anniversary Dinner with an alternate beginning. Outside of the alternate beginning, the deleted scenes do not add much to the story. “All that Grit: Kirk Douglas and the Movies” round out the extra features. This was an excellent featurette that chronicled the history of a true Hollywood legend, starting with his entry into Hollywood in the early 1950’s to the filming of “It Runs In The Family” in 2002. He discusses in detail his experience of having a stroke and his rehabilitation. Very well done.
While this movie seems quite impressive on first glance given the cast involved, it fall short on direction and character development. If there really is a reason to watch this movie it is Kirk Douglas. He is truly an amazing actor that continues to deliver strong performances despite his stroke-induced limitations.
Special Features List
- Commentary with director Fred Schepisi
- “Family makes you nuts” making-of documentary
- 3 deleted scenes
- “All that Grit: Kirk Douglas and the Movies featurette