Directors: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Writers: Jesse Armstrong, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell
Plot: A couple must figure out where they stand after his runs away from his family during an apparent crisis.
Review: Judging remakes is not easy. Personally, I don’t think there’s an easy way to do it. Are you supposed to compare the movie to the original or pretend it’s its own movie? Is it supposed to be essentially the same movie or should it be totally different? How much credit do you give the new movie for just recycling what worked the first time? Like, I enjoyed The Lion King remake because I enjoyed The Lion King. Do I give the movie a passing grade for copying someone else’s work? That’s kind of what I’m struggling with here. Downhill is an inferior version of Force Majeure. That much is obvious to anyone who has seen both. But, it’s not an ok remake. I’d even consider it good when taken on it’s own. ‘Tis the struggle I guess.
Surprisingly, if we have to compare these two movies, there is a really easy metric to use. The original movie, Force Majeure, is two hours long. It tells the story of how a family reacts after the father flees when it looks like they are in danger. The wife and children lose faith in him, while he has a major breakdown. It’s funny. It’s emotional. And, it features a powerhouse performance from Swedish actor Johannes Bah Kuhnke. Downhill is not even 90 minutes long. That’s about a fourth of the runtime. As a result, we lose about one fourth of the story. It becomes the story about how the wife views her husband after this event instead of the whole family. Will Ferrell still has a pretty big part in the story, but it just doesn’t feel as meaty as that role is in the original. I don’t know if that’s because they didn’t think Ferrell could pull it off. Or if they thought Americans would not accept a massive meltdown (just think of the most hysterical sobbing possible) by a guy. I don’t know. It’s super disappointing though. In the original, we judged the husband just as harshly as his family did, but then ended up feeling bad once we saw how much his inaction hurt him. In this version, the husband is kind of just an ass. They took away our ability to care for him and, without getting into spoilers, they took away his moment of redemption. It’s a real bummer. So, yeah, if you’re simply comparing Downhill to the original… it’s not great.
However, I do think this can be enjoyed on it’s own accord. If for whatever reason you have never seen the original and have no intention to, this isn’t the worst substitute. It’s still got a good story. It’ll still raise the same debates between couples as its predecessor. It’s just not quite as fleshed out. It still features strong performances. Julia Louis-Dreyfus kills it. I understand why the focused so much on her. She does an excellent job playing the wife who has legitimately lost all faith in her husband. The pain and disgust is just all over her face. She doesn’t even have to vocalize it. Ferrell, too, is good. As I said, I wish his part was meatier, but that’s just because I’ve seen the original. For what he was given, he did a pretty good job. Actually, that’s kind of a good metaphor for the whole movie. It’s fine. I just wish it were meatier.
But, also, I don’t want to give this movie too much credit because everything I really liked in this was in Force Majeure first. And they just copied it and put it in English. But, what works still mostly works… but it doesn’t work as well. Ugh. I hate reviewing remakes, especially when they’re decent.
TL;DR: When compared it to its source material, Downhill doesn’t really hold up. But, if you take it as it’s own thing, it’s pretty good.
Grade: 7/10 (Good)