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It Runs in the Family

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
It Runs in the Family
from Film Forum, 05/01/03It Runs in the Family features finer points of a dysfunctional family

Acting legends Kirk Douglas and Michael Douglas join forces this week with a dramedy about the fractured Gromberg family. It Runs in the Family's director, Fred Shepisi, was responsible for the charming comedy Roxanne and 2001's deeply moving drama about aging and wounded relationships, Last Orders.

Religious film critics are divided over the movie, some praising its emphasis on faithfulness and unity, others condemning it for portraying characters who behave like fallen human beings.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "It is a slow moving film but one that is rich in relationships as well as being honest regarding the family dynamic. The Grombergs may not be the Bradys or Ozzie and Harriet but who among us is? Their family, as odd and rife with problems as it is, is still bound together by love."

Loren Eaton (Focus on the Family) cautions families that there is plenty of profanity and reckless behavior on display. But the news isn't all bad. "The incessantly bickering Grombergs come across like a less cartoonish version of Everybody Loves Raymond's Barone clan. Yet beneath their animosity lies a sense of commitment so strong it's almost tangible. Instead of going their separate ways when drug charges, death, and allegations of an affair loom large, everyone pulls together, strengthened by Alex's pledge that 'We're a family and we're going to figure it out together.' It's a sentiment our ease-addicted culture needs to internalize."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "The on-screen chemistry of … Kirk and Michael Douglas facilitates the theme of reconciliation to emerge with emotional honesty despite the at times schmaltzy sentimentality of the narrative. The film's theme of forgiveness, as well as the profamily message it espouses, make [the movie's] saccharine moments easy pills to swallow—even to applaud." He also lauds the film's portrayal of family prayer, noting that Hollywood is usually averse to including "traditional religious practices for any purpose other than mockery."

Holly McClure (Crosswalk) is not so enthusiastic. "I was disappointed that this movie wasn't better considering the talent behind it."

Movieguide's critic warns, "They talk about character, but do not exhibit it. They create the wrong impression of what life is like at every turn. One thinks of the impact films have overseas, where movies have become the primary ambassadors for the United States. If the Muslim nations ever wanted a reason to think of our country as immoral and out of control, this movie will give it to them."

You can scan the primarily negative reviews of mainstream critics here.