Robert De Niro probably isn’t the first name to come to mind when considering a father figure…unless it’s a Godfather figure.
But as he enters the later phase of his career, De Niro is aiming to add some variety to his body of work. One example is the new family drama, “Everybody’s Fine.”
An Americanized remake of the touching 1990 Italian film “Stanno tutti bene” by Giuseppe Tornatore, “Everybody’s Fine” boasts a strong cast and good intentions, but can’t quite live up to its predecessor.
De Niro (“Righteous Kill”) stars as Frank Goode, a retiree with a heart ailment. Frank’s wife passed away several months ago and he hasn’t seen his four grown kids since the funeral.
Lonely and rudderless without his wife, Frank looks forward to a visit from his kids at Christmastime. One by one, however, all of his kids let him know that they won’t be able to make it home for the holidays.
In spite of the warnings of his disapproving doctor, Frank decides to pay a surprise visit to all of his far-flung children. Problem is, they all have reasons for not wanting their demanding father to see how their lives have turned out.
Initially, he goes to New York to see his son David, a Manhattan-based artist. But David never shows up at this seedy apartment.
He then drops in on Amy (Kate Beckinsale from “Whiteout”), an advertising executive, at her posh Chicago home. But she puts him off, claiming business conflicts.
Next, he visits Denver where his son Robert (Sam Rockwell from “Moon”), is a symphonic drummer. Robert tells his dad that he’s leaving for Europe for a tour the next day.
Frank then travels to Las Vegas to see his showgirl daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore from “Whip It!”). While she initially welcomes him to her suspiciously pricey apartment, it’s obvious that she’s keeping something from him.
Little by little, Frank discovers that he really doesn’t know very much about his kids. He also learns that his high expectations and pushy ways have taken an unexpected toll on them.
Director Kirk Jones (“Waking Ned Devine”) allows the sentiment to flow but adds in just enough cynicism to temper the sugary elements. His use of magic realism (Frank occasionally chats to the kids and sees them in their 9-year-old personas) is a bit heavy handed, however.
All of this should seem cloying, but thanks to the capable cast, “Everybody’s Fine” is just fine after all. (PG-13) Rating: ***
* Avoid at all costs
** Only if you're bored
*** Good movie
**** Well worth your time
***** Be sure to see it