Everybody’s Fine screams out for witty wordplay in the review. If I were clever I’d probably say something like “Everybody’s fine…except the audience, they’re miserable” (boom!) or “This movie should be called Everybody’s Mediocre” (slam!). I’m not that clever, though, so I’ll just say that Everybody’s Fine is not too good.
At the end of the Robert De Niro’s tearjerker, Everybody’s Fine, Paul McCartney sings a ballad written especially for the movie called “(I Want to) Come Home.” It’s a perfect song for the film, as it’s pretty bland and you feel like Macca could have done better, just like the film. De Niro does his best, but this boring family drama just isn’t interesting or deep enough to cause us to care about him and his family problems. He plays Frank Goode, a retired telephone wire insulator or installer or something, whose wife has recently died. The wife was the one who communicated with their four grown children, now spread throughout the United States, and apparently filtered information so Frank didn’t hear much about the problems, only the good stuff. He invites all the kids back for the holidays and they all end up cancelling, so he heads out on a cross-country trip to visit each one of them.
What Frank doesn’t know, and what the movie slowly reveals through his trips to see three of the adult children played by Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell, is that they have some problems in their lives. They try almost anything to keep these problems and the problems of the fourth, unseen sibling from Frank. The lengths they go to are almost sitcomish. Beckinsale’s Amy is having marriage problems, but her estranged husband comes over to stay while Frank is in town. I think that was a plot point in A Very Brady Christmas, right? Not that it’s some sort of screwball comedy; it’s actually pretty slow and downbeat.
It’s never made clear in the movie why the kids go to such great lengths to keep Frank in the dark about key points in their lives. I understand family communication can be convoluted at times, but typically people are told about grandchildren being born, daughters divorcing, and general career choices. Especially since Frank never comes across as an angry, unreasonable ogre. It’s alluded to that he pushed hard for the kids to succeed, but it’s also clear that every time the bad news finally comes out, he handles it pretty well. So why all the secrecy? They hurt him more by telling him ridiculous stories than they would with the information.
The real reason they keep things from him is so the movie can exist. If they didn’t go to such great lengths to hide their problems and lie directly to his face, there wouldn’t be any movie. It would just be a family, like many, that doesn’t communicate very well but doesn’t have serious rifts. It’s like the plane trip that Frank takes near the end of the film after his doctor has mentioned that he shouldn’t fly. He could take the train, but flying brings about an event that helps move the movie towards its sappy, tear-filled conclusion.
Director Kirk Jones, who adapted the screenplay from an earlier Italian film, is lucky to have De Niro as the center of this film. It could have been a total disaster, but he makes it possible to sit through all 100 minutes. However, “you’re able to sit through it” is the epitome of damming with faint praise. Unless you want to have an excuse to cry, it’s a movie to avoid.
Whoever put this DVD release together was clearly counting on De Niro’s name to draw anyone to the film and therefore put no effort into the extras. It makes you think that people like De Niro and Kirk Jones were either unwilling to help the DVD release in any way or they were just too cheap or lazy to put together even the most basic extras. Perhaps they were being “saved” for the Blu-ray release?
The longest feature is about 11 minutes of deleted and extended scenes. They heavily feature De Niro and his encounters on the road, but are far from essential. The only other feature (seriously) is a 10-minute making-of extra. Unfortunately, it’s the making-of the Paul McCartney song played over the credits. I mean, I like Paul more than any other musician living or dead, and I loved that I could hear him talk about songwriting, but having this instead of a full making-of is inexcusable.
That’s it. There are no commentaries. This is only Kirk Jones’ third movie, and his first since Nanny McPhee. Is he really too busy to record a commentary? I’m not saying one is needed, but how about making an effort? There are no interviews with the big-name cast including De Niro, Beckinsale, Rockwell, and Barrymore. No behind-the-scenes discussions of how great the acting is or how this is the best movie ever. Nothing. Not even a gag reel. That’s just old footage set to music, how hard is that?
As mediocre as the movie is, the DVD is even worse. Just not much to it except for the Paul McCartney thing, which is pretty irrelevant to begin with. Not a good swan song for Miramax.