About three months ago I was driving in my car trying to think of a movie I’d seen a few years back. I tend to talk to myself a lot, especially in a car by myself, so I was saying “Ok, I know it’s a two word movie title…” and this went on for several minutes. I knew it was a legal term. I knew it…was something! And then, of course, it hit me! Force Majeure. Ok, that was satisfying. I’d heard about that film and managed to procure a copy. Looking back, it was a fun movie to watch and one I’d had on my short list to watch again. That was, until, Downhill came out. I watched the preview for it and thought to myself “this looks eerily familiar.” And, sure enough, it’s the Americanized version of the aforementioned movie. I’ve got nothing against remakes of foreign-language films and some that come to mind are Point of No Return, The Ring, Let Me In and Shutter. There are more, of course, but those hit me first. So here we are. We’ve got a movie with two comedic gods in Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a remake of a dark comedy. Let’s hit the slopes.
We meet an upper middle class family who are on vacation to the Swiss Alps. Pete (Will Ferrell) and his wife Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) seem to be having a good time and enjoying themselves. But when a “controlled avalanche” goes away, it brings out Pete’s true colors. When he sees a cloud of snow heading for he and his family, he doesn’t go into defense mode, instead he grabs his cell phone and runs the other way. The snow clears. The event isn’t mentioned except to the manager (Kristofer Hivju, who was also in the original) and all is well. Is all well? This gives them time to think about what happened. Pete and Billie propose what happened to friends Zach (Zach Woods) and Rosie (Zoe Chao) and the topic is once again divided. Will this seemingly innocuous event be the lynchpin that breaks up this happily married couple?
Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash know what they’re doing. But one has to ask what they were doing when they made this film. While not bad by any means, it just didn’t seem to play to American audiences. You can’t simply take a movie and have actors perform the parts, beat by beat, and still expect it to work. And I’m a fan of Faxon and Rash’s work, in particular The Way Way Back. The problem, I think, is that the roles didn’t play to the lead actors’ strengths. Yes, they’re funny, but Ferrell’s bread and butter are films like Step Brothers or Anchorman and Dreyfus shines in everything she’s in, namely Veep. Still, I couldn’t get over the fact that something seemed to be missing. My advice is to watch Force Majeure instead of this. It has more of authentic feel to it and not something that’s being forced to what it really isn’t.
Video: How’s it look?
Given that the film takes place in the Swiss Alps, it might be assumed that it’d be a beautiful movie to watch. It is. And it isn’t. The focus isn’t to showcase the majestic and might of the mountain range, it’s merely a backdrop. That said, the 2.39:1 AVC HD image isn’t exactly shabby when it comes to how it looks. Flesh tones are warm and natural and detail is excellent. A few of the interior shots seem to be on the ‘overcooked’ side, but it wasn’t that much of an issue. Being a Blu-ray, we’re lacking the HDR of what a 4K disc would offer, but I honestly don’t think it’d make much of a difference on a film like this. Concurrent with most other day and date releases, this looks good but doesn’t resonate with an “Oh my God, this is beautiful!” sentiment.
Audio: How’s it sound?
There isn’t a lot of room for this DTS HD Master Audio sound mix to spread its wings. Even the “controlled avalanche” scene is a bit lacking. Then again this is a comedy and not something trying to knock the pictures off the wall. That said, there are a few moments, namely a bass-thumping song, that do give the LFE’s a bit of room to breathe. Vocals are clear and crisp – no complaints there.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Deleted Scenes – Given the film’s scant running time of 86 minutes, it wouldn’t have killed them to include a few of these. They’re nice to have, nonetheless.
Outtakes: Dinner with Charlotte – I’m willing to bet that any movie with Will Farrell will have tons of outtakes, though these featuring the ensemble cast are pretty interesting.
Origins of the Film – Pretty much that. We look at how the film was adapted for the screen.
Locations – This is a bit misleading as one would figure that they’d showcase some of the filming locations. As mentioned, misleading and the less said the better.
The Bottom Line
This is a jump ball. On one hand it’s got a lot going for it, namely the cast. Will Ferrell doesn’t make too many misfires (Holmes & Watson aside) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus is the shining star of the film. But part of me says why settle for a remake when the original was much better?