Downhill

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Two former SNL cast members hit the ski slopes.

Two former SNL cast members hit the ski slopes.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Movie critics can be pretentious dopes. And mark my words, with this movie, they’re all going to tell you how great the original was. The film this is based on, Force Majeure, wasn’t that good (my original review appears here: https://fox5sandiego.com/entertainment/at-the-movies-blog/force-majeure/ )

That film was two hours, while this is a short 85 minutes. Perhaps that will make it easier to digest for American audiences, combined with the fact that you have two former SNL cast members, and A-list comedic performers — Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss (who also produced). It’s funny that she got involved in this picture, because in my original review, I talked about the premise reminding me of an episode of Seinfeld, where George runs out of a house during a fire, pushing women and children to get out. Surely she realized this when she saw the original.

Ferrell has proven he can play serious characters. He was good in Stranger Than Fiction, and I loved him in the underrated Everything Must Go (which made my Top 10 list in 2010). But the real ace in the hole with this picture are the screenwriting/directors — Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. They did one of my favorite movies of 2013 — The Way, Way Back (Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell). They won the adapted screenplay Oscar for writing The Descendants (George Clooney), and they display the same subtlety here. That works perfectly for me, but it means that many people will be expecting more. They’ll want to see Ferrell screaming at people on the ski slopes, or crashing into a tree. And I have to admit, that’s one aspect of casting Ferrell in this role that won’t work for most.

A family is on vacation in the Alps. During a lunch on the balcony of the resort, an avalanche comes towards them. Everyone panics, taking cover or running. Peter (Ferrell) who has already been scolded by his wife (Dreyfuss) for being on the phone, grabs his phone and jets. That leaves his wife and kids to be covered in snow, and scared to death. This act of cowardice creates a riff between them. 

Movie snobs are going to complain about an Americanized remake of the Ruben Ostlund film, but…critics often like to praise foreign films that don’t live up to the hype. There are rumors an American version of Toni Erdmann is going to be made (with Jack Nicholson to star). That film was awful.

The American remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was great, but unnecessary. Angelina Jolie’s The Tourist was awful. Ghost in the Shell was okay, but people were upset Scarlett Johansson was cast, instead of an Asian actress (after she had to drop out for playing a transgender character, she just can’t catch a break in these “woke” times). Julianne Moore’s version of Gloria Bell was okay, but rather unnecessary.

The better films to remake are the ones that have comedic elements. I enjoyed both versions of The Upside (even with the Kevin Hart Oscar controversy happening right before its release). And this is the type of movie that, while slight in the comedy department, worked for me. Early reviews haven’t been positive, which is a shame.

I do think this version could have been a bit darker; though the subtle moments of humor are what the filmmakers do best. So when colleague Zach (Zach Woods) and his girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao) show up, which doesn’t thrill Billie…it creates an amusing riff. After what is the most uncomfortable fight, even involving the children’s opinions, they’re marched back to their rooms with Zach saying “They’re such great kids.” 

It was the biggest laugh I’ve had in weeks.

Miranda Otto is used brilliantly, as the wacky hotel manager, who always seems to butt her way into things and make inappropriate comments. She brings big laughs with her sexual escapades.

There’s a drunken escape that doesn’t work at all, and makes you dislike Peter a bit. Movies are much more interesting when we have mixed feelings about characters like this. And with his act of cowardice, and denying it, you can almost see why he’s doing/saying the things he is.

While he’s getting drunk with his friend, Billie does have a bit of fun flirting with a hunky ski instructor. That segment, albeit cliche, works well.

I’ve seen too many movies over the years, that often times I see scenes that remind me of other scenes. In this, one scene reminded me of an episode of Taxi where Judd Hirsch could have easily apologized to his boss and ended the conflict, but wouldn’t.

A few other scenes, Louis-Dreyfuss reminded me of Molly Shannon (another SNL alumni) and some of her facial expressions. 

I just wish the filmmakers took a bit more risk with this picture, instead of giving us a light comedy/drama.

It’s opening on Valentine’s Day, and is either the perfect movie for a date night, or the worst.

My wife didn’t care for it, but I did. We both agreed what Billie did at the ending, worked nicely.

3 stars out of 5.

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