- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ollywood remakes of foreign films are rarely welcomed without prejudice – as if telling the story in a different language somehow changes its meaning. No matter how good it may be, the same tired adage always applies: it’s not as good as the original. Thankfully, I’ve never seen the 1990 Italian drama that inspired writer/director Kirk Jones’ latest film, and it’s probably for the better. “Everybody’s Fine” is one of those movies that you only need to see once, but thanks to a great cast led by a wonderfully heartfelt performance by Robert De Niro, you’ll be glad that you did.
De Niro stars as Frank, a retired factory worker who finds himself all alone after his wife passes away. In an attempt to stay connected to his four children, he invites them back home for a family reunion, only for each one to cancel days before they’re scheduled to arrive. Frank decides that if they’re not going to come to him, he’ll go to them, and against his doctor’s orders, he sets off on a cross-country road trip to surprise them in their respective cities. What he discovers is that his kids – daughters Amy (Kate Beckinsale) and Rosie (Drew Barrymore), and son Robert (Sam Rockwell) – haven’t turned out exactly the way he thought, and to make matters worse, they’re hiding a secret about their brother Danny.
Easily his best performance in years (although that’s not exactly a compliment when you consider his other work), “Everybody’s Fine” is for Robert De Niro what “About Schmidt” was for Jack Nicholson. Finding quality work as a young actor doesn’t seem to be too difficult if you’re talented, but as soon as you cross that threshold from leading man to aging veteran, good roles seem a lot harder to come by. In fact, even though “Everybody’s Fine” doesn’t present De Niro with quite as complex of a character as Warren Schmidt, it still lets him flex his dramatic muscle enough to put him in contention for a Best Actor nomination. It’s not strong enough to win, but his portrayal of a hardworking father who just wants his kids to be happy is simply too sweet to ignore.
The actors playing the adult version of those kids, however, are pretty forgettable, but that’s because they’re not onscreen long enough to leave any kind of lasting impression. Instead, they’re just there to keep the story moving along, and though it initially starts out as a road comedy of sorts, it eventually turns into a real tearjerker. Still, it’s a very genuine transition, as director Kirk Jones doesn’t pander to the audience so much as he highlights the small moments that we all experience at some point in our lives. Seeing the way that Frank views his children (as much younger versions of themselves) is enough to melt your heart. And in a season when a trip to the movies means deciding between big budget blockbusters and heavy-handed Oscar bait, it’s nice to see a film that’s actually about the holidays – namely, the importance of family.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The single-disc release of “Everybody’s Fine” features over 10 minutes of deleted and extended scenes – mostly of Robert De Niro’s character speaking to fellow travelers – but they don’t add much to the story. There’s also an interview with Paul McCartney about composing the end title song, “(I Want To) Come Home,” that is just as pointless.