DVD release: De Niro saves ‘Everybody’s Fine’

Published On:
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
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Movie: “Everybody’s Fine”
Pitchforks: 2.5 out of 5
Starring: Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Sam Rockwell
Rating: PG-13

“Fine” is usually a word people say when they do not want to reveal their true feelings, a short response that does not allow further inquiry. From the very first scene in this week’s DVD release of “Everybody’s Fine,” it is evident everything is not fine.

Based on a 1990 Italian film of the same name, “Everybody’s Fine” is about Frank Goode (Robert De Niro), a man who recently lost his wife and struggles to keep relationships with his four children.

After his kids cancel on a family reunion, Frank surprises them all by showing up on their doorsteps. Franks travels by bus, plane and train to New York, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas and receives somewhat unwelcoming receptions. Drew Barrymore, Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale play the Goode children, who try to hide a secret from their father about their brother’s arrest in Mexico.

Despite advertisements that made the film seem lighthearted and comedic, the important thing to know about “Everybody’s Fine” is that it may bring viewers to tears. The first scene shows a very lonely man, trying to keep busy about the house and telling everyone he meets about his successful children. Viewers’ hearts will go out to Frank every time he tries but fails to reach out to his distant children.

De Niro is so charming in the picture that everyone else seems either bland or heartless. Although “Everybody’s Fine,” hints at De Niro’s true age, he somehow manages to play an average retiree with just as much charisma as he does with more vibrant roles.

However, De Niro’s heartwarming performance cannot save the film from dipping its toes into mediocrity and blandness. The occasional extra is thrown into the story without contributing anything to further the plot. Even strong actors like Barrymore, Rockwell and Beckinsale give underwhelming performances. In fact, their younger counterparts, who portray the characters when they were little, do better with their roles.

Countless times throughout the movie, the characters say the word “fine.” Perhaps the greatest downfall of the movie is that the story never gets past that emphasis.

Director Kirk Jones attempts to make the children’s actions seem redeemable, but it does not work. The children never seem to apologize for their sneakiness and mistreatment of their father. The resolution happens suddenly and does not wrap up all of the emotions that the plot builds.

The bonus features on the DVD are less than fine as well. Viewers are given two choices, deleted scenes and the making of Paul McCartney’s original song for the movie. Both bonus features can easily be skipped. It is obvious why the deleted scenes were deleted, and it is hard to get through them even though most are only a minute long.

McCartney’s feature is a nice change because it’s much happier than the film, but it would only be interesting for fans of the musician.

Without De Niro, “Everybody’s Fine” would be nothing more than depressing and bland. The film is worth a rent for those looking for an emotional family flick, but do not expect it to be anything more than “fine.”

Reach Stephanie at slrusso@asu.edu