Everybody’s Fine

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Posted December 3, 2009 in Film

Robert De Niro is blue-collar widower Frank Goode, a man who raised four kids on a telephone wire manufacturer’s salary and his sky-high ambitions that they grow up to conquer the world. They haven’t, and they’ve all scattered far enough around the country that he doesn’t have to know they’re fluffing their resumes on the rarer and rarer moments they call home. (Yes, his job is a capital “M” metaphor.) Frank is the type of dad who shows his love by buying an expensive grill before they all come home for the weekend. But when kids Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell and Lucian Maisel all cancel, he decides to surprise visit them in a cross-country trip rich in contrivances. His heart condition, for one, means he can’t fly planes but he can eat steak. And yes, dear old dad is the last human in America without a cell phone. This is About Schmidt for dummies with De Niro in hapless, sweet sap mode, and despite solid enough performances from his kids—all of who have a different relationship with their pops—there’s nothing brave enough here to yank on the heartstrings. Writer-director Kirk Jones resorts to making De Niro visit the 9/11 memorial for heft. Finally, he throws up his own hands at making anything greater than a default family flick for a dull holiday weekend, having De Niro sigh at the end, “If you asked me what I learned, I’d have to say I’m not sure.” 

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