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Cinema Purgatorio

Everybody's Fine (2009)

Abbot Genser/Miramax Films

It’s a very sad day indeed when Robert De Niro can no longer survive the mean streets. I’m talkin’ ’bout you, old man. Halfway through “Everybody’s Fine,” the career tough guy surrenders to a mugger — as if anyone would buy that for a New York minute. He’s Fredo? I don’t think so.

Mr. De Niro is here reprising a role previously played with aching poignancy by Marcello Mastroianni in Giuseppe Tornatore’s eponymous 1991 film that serves as the basis for Kirk Jones’s remake. Once a debonair world-class leading man, Mastroianni was nearly unrecognizable underneath the guise of thick glasses and head of silver-white hair. One genuinely feared for his safety when he encountered his mugger. But with Mr. De Niro sporting that military-dad haircut and looking very much like Jack Byrnes from “Meet the Parents,” you wonder what thug in his right mind would want to mess with him in the first place.

It’s the story of a widower who travels across the country to visit his children after they’ve collectively excused themselves from a planned family gathering. There are many things that no longer work for the remake: Trains and buses serving as the protagonist’s modes of transportation made sense in Italy, but not here in the States. His former profession as a fiber-optic cable maker also seemed more relevant in a time when people still used land lines. The fact that he doesn’t carry a cell phone is beyond reason in this day and age.

Although Mr. Jones’s film has a myriad of other problems, the casting of Mr. De Niro is impossible to get past. There isn’t anything wrong with his performance per se, but his screen presence inherently lacks the vulnerability embodied by Mastroianni during his turn. Mr. Tornatore also played up the sentimentality of moviegoers bearing witness to the physical deterioration of a star from yesteryear. Time has been very kind to Mr. De Niro, and he has never looked better. Unfortunately, that does not help this film one bit.


Opens on Dec. 4 in the United States and on Feb. 19, 2010 in Britain.

Directed by Kirk Jones; written by Mr. Jones, based on the film “Stanno Tutti Bene” written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore; director of photography, Henry Braham; edited by Andrew Mondschein; music by Dario Marianelli; production designer, Andrew Jackness; produced by Gianni Nunnari, Ted Field, Vittorio Cecchi Gori and Glynis Murray; released by Miramax Films. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A.

WITH: Robert De Niro (Frank Goode), Drew Barrymore (Rosie), Kate Beckinsale (Amy), Sam Rockwell (Robert), Melissa Leo (Colleen), Damian Young (Jeff), Lucian Maisel (Jack) and James Frain (Tom).


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