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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » It Runs in the Family (Blu-ray)
It Runs in the Family (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // PG-13 // November 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted April 24, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

This one came and went without much fanfare in 2003. It Runs in the Family offers Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas and Cameron Douglas, a somewhat distracting decision, in this dramatic comedy about an upper-crust New York City Jewish family struggling with internal problems. Fred Schepisi's film explores the family dynamic at surface level, and, while nothing is particularly offensive here, nothing is especially compelling, either. Bernadette Peters, Diana Dill (formerly married to Kirk Douglas), Rory Culkin and Michelle Monaghan round out the cast. The direction from Australian Shepisi is unflashy but effective, and Jesse Wigutow's script asks little from the actors or audience. Forgettable aside from the gimmicky casting, It Runs in the Family is the type of movie you would not seek out, but you might watch on daytime cable.

Alex Gromberg (Michael Douglas) is tired of working at his grandfather's law firm, and has previously shunned a partnership role. His father, Mitchell (Kirk Douglas), is recovering from a stroke, and his mother, Evelyn (Dill), is on dialysis for her own health problems. Alex is married to Rebecca (Peters), but considers fooling around with a younger woman, Suzie (Sarita Choudhury). The pair has two sons: college-age drug dealer Asher (Cameron Douglas) and reclusive eleven-year-old Eli (Culkin). Alex's family lives in a converted loft and gets together with Mitchell and Evelyn for dinner and bickering. The boys have their own problems as the younger couple's marriage is strained by Alex's restlessness.

Among the film's recurring themes are infidelity, loneliness, discontent and father/son resentment. A movie about a wealthy Manhattan family faces an uphill battle with unsympathetic audiences, and casting three generations of wealthy Douglas men does not exactly help matters. The acting is fine at least, and you can see the natural chemistry. It is somewhat awkward seeing Kirk Douglas play a man recovering from a stroke, as the actor actually had a stroke in 1996. At times I wanted It Runs in the Family to look away from the struggling Kirk Douglas, whose work here is a far cry from his Spartacus glory days. Cameron Douglas is least compelling as the goofy, lay-about stoner who romances Monaghan's straight-shooting college girl.

If anything, It Runs in the Family feels too tempered. I wish Schepisi had allowed his cast to get a little more real. Instead, the film feels like a string of Hallmark Channel highlights, heavy on melodrama but light on substance. Nothing is tackled particularly well, from death to martial strife to redemption for the factious family. Everything is fine but nothing more. The film has the opportunity to spotlight what it's like to live as an extended family in the middle of Manhattan, and it at least shows the unique perspective of commuting across the city for work, school and healthcare. Ultimately, I cannot in good faith give a strong recommendation to a film that makes such little impact. More vanity project than worthwhile drama, It Runs in the Family is inoffensively disappointing.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is a step up from standard definition, but this is not demo-worthy material. The print is quite dingy for a 2003 film. There are plenty of specs and dirt throughout, especially in the first reel. Everything feels a little flat, from the colors to the sharpness. Better are fine-object details and texture, both of which are readily apparent if you know where to look. Black levels are decent, with only minor black crush. Colors are muted but appropriately saturated. I did not notice any huge technical problems other than some minor wobble during the opening credits.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is fine. This is a dialogue-heavy film, and the dialogue is presented without distortion. The light ambient effects of Manhattan make use of the surrounds, and the score is layered appropriately.

EXTRAS:

You get a Commentary by Director Fred Schepisi; The Making of It Runs in the Family (29:05/SD), with cast and crew interviews; Kirk Douglas and the Movies (7:34/SD), about the veteran actor; and some Deleted and Alternate Scenes (6:54/SD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It Runs in the Family is a low-impact comedic drama with gimmicky casting. Three generations of the Douglas family appear here in appropriate roles, but Fred Schepisi's film lurks at the surface level of the family drama. Rent It.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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