"It Runs in the Family" (AKA: "The Douglas Family Reunion Tour") reunites many members of the Douglas clan (father Kirk, son Michael, Michael's son Cameron, Kirk's former wife Diana Douglas and others) for a vanity project that does nothing to add to the Douglas legacy. The film focuses on Mitch Gromberg (Kirk Douglas), a father and retired lawyer who has recently suffered from a stroke, but has made an excellent recovery. Mitch's son, Alex (Michael Douglas) has taken over the reigns, but then finds himself in a mid-life crisis and defending his married self from the advances of his soup kitchen co-worker.
The film doesn't have as much of a plot as a series of situations, often attempting to be heartwarming and occasionally trying to be funny (and failing), resulting in a picture that really seems to know what it wants to be. We get Alex working too hard and nearly having his marriage fall apart, we get the son in the midst of an unlikely relationship, we get the son who's lost his way and is dealing drugs, we even get the fishing trip where Kirk gets to call Michael a "schmuck!"
The film manages to generate episodes, but never really tie them together or develop characters across the 101 minute running time, which eventually starts to feel long. Along the lines of the screenplay, this is one of those films where the music builds and one of the older characters can offer a nugget of wisdom along the lines of, "never get old." I was also a tad surprised with some of the innuendo in the film. While nothing particularly wrong with it in a PG-13 film, it feels rather out-of-place in a family drama like this.
I didn't much care for most of the performances, either. Michael Douglas offers one of his blandest performances here, not managing to bring much from an already underwritten character. Kirk's fiercer performance has a few good moments - I liked a scene where he got knocked over by a couple of younger joggers in Central Park. When they offer to help him up and sit him down, he threatens to knock them out. Rory Culkin offers a nice little performance as a quiet, straightforward little brother who only speaks when he really has something on his mind.
Obviously, the casting of a handful of Douglas clan members in the lead roles was enough of a gimmick to get this picture into production, but the underdeveloped screenplay and its problems are too much to overcome. The New York/New Jersey locations look terrific, though.
VIDEO: "It Runs in the Family" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is generally average, as noticeable faults take away from some of the positives in the image quality. Sharpness and detail vary; some of the brighter, outdoor sequences remain bright and well-defined, but some of the interior shots can seem soft. The inconsistent grain also can make the detail suffer a bit.
Edge enhancement can be an issue with the presentation, as well. Although the mild amounts don't take away from the presentation terribly, they're still somewhat distracting. Some noticeable specks and marks on the print used were also rather surprising, considering the fact that this is a recent theatrical release. Compression artifacts were also in evidence. On a positive note, colors looked quite nice.
SOUND: "It Runs in the Family" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 by MGM/UA. Obviously, this isn't a kind of film that favors the surrounds heavily, but I was pleased to note that they did get put to use during a few city scenes to provide some decent ambience. Other than that, this was a largely dialogue-driven feature, with occasional music. Dialogue remained clear and well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Director Fred Schepisi provides a pleasant, if very low-key commentary. The director does offer quite a bit of information and insight about working with the Douglas clan, but some viewers may find this commentary somewhat slow going at times. Also included on the DVD are a thirty-minute "making of" documentary, along with a shorter featurette on Kirk Douglas, deleted scenes and the film's trailer.
Final Thoughts: Marketed as a slapstick comedy, "It Runs in the Family" is instead a sappy drama that fails in its occasional attempts at comic relief. Predictable, unoriginal and often tedious, "It Runs in the Family" is a definite disappointment. MGM's DVD offers decent audio/video quality, along with a few moderately involving supplements. Those still interested may want to try a rental, but I wouldn't strongly recommend it.