Tony's Take

DOWNHILL review

A Different Kind of Disaster Movie

Based off the Swedish film “Force Majeure”, this re-imagining follows a family during their vacation in the Alps.  In “Downhill”, Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete (Will Ferrell) are enjoying their stay at a luxurious ski resort, along with their two boys.  After their first day of fun, the rest of their week becomes much more than they bargained for.  During their lunch atop the mountain, a controlled blast sends snow hurtling towards them like an avalanche as they sit at the table.  Pete immediately grabs his phone from the table and runs off, leaving Billie and the boys to huddle together and pray they survive. Returning after, he pretends nothing is wrong, while the rest of the family is left shocked and feeling betrayed.  Pete is left alone to his bed, with Billie and the boys afraid to approach him.  As more and more mounts, the tension becomes more than palpable and the two of them are left wondering about more than the event; they begin to question their relationship and their future as well.

The film is billed as a comedy from the trailers, but, sadly, there are fewer jokes than I was expecting given the comedic duo at the helm.  Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell have been at the top of the comedy world for years, whether it’s her TV roles in Seinfeld and VEEP or his various, and original movie roles; usually when they’re involved the jokes follow.  Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  While their performances and chemistry were undeniable, they left much to be desired comedically.  The supporting cast was one of the stronger elements of the film, including Zach Woods, Zoe Chao, Miranda Otto, and Kristofer Hivju (who also starred in the original film).  The film just felt very flat, as if it was missing a certain “spark” to elevate it.  Pacing is another issue in the film, with some very strange scene cuts and dramatic lulls.  Thankfully the film’s gorgeous scenery saves the day, with numerous stunning mountain shots featured throughout.

The 2014 film, though starring mostly unknowns in the roles, felt way more genuine and authentic.  A certain character’s arc is “fixed” during the climax of “Downhill” that feels laughably forced; “Force Majeure” handled this in a much better way.  In fact, much of the plot seems to be lacking a clear point-of-view as some character arcs take things in an unnatural direction.  “Downhill” comes in at a brisk 86 minutes and many will be excited to get up once the credits start to roll.  At the end of the day, it’s hard for me to recommend this to moviegoers when, in-fact, “Force Majeure” is a far better, more entertaining film.  Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus may unfairly receive the blame, but the source material left them handcuffed and gasping for air.  I’m sure both are eager and excited to put this one behind them. 

2/5

DOWNHILL is rated R for language and some sexual material, in theaters FEBRUARY 14TH!