Comedy, Drama | Rated: R
Directed by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Written by: Jesse Armstrong, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Stars: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell,
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Film Budget: $90 million
Worldwide Grossed: $8.9 million
Released Date: February 14, 2020
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Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus star in this timid remake of a dark Swedish vacation comedy. “Downhill” is a vacation-gone-wrong comedy that lives up to its ill-advised title. It stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell as a couple on an Alpine ski trip, which is not the worst premise. They bicker and blunder within the parameters of their familiar comic personas, and you almost believe that their characters (Billie and Pete) could actually be married. He is a needy, amiable, slightly hysterical doofus. She is impatient and anxious. Their twin preadolescent sons (Julian Grey and Ammon Ford) barely have personalities at all, but as the family arrives in Austria it seems possible that the audience will have a good time even if the characters don’t.
But it doesn’t work out that way. “Downhill,” directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (whose previous vacation comedy was “The Way, Way Back”), is a remake of “Force Majeure,” a 2014 Swedish film directed by Ruben Ostlund. Comparing the two is a dispiriting exercise. Ostlund’s version is a sharp, relentless satire of masculine insecurity and middle-class complacency, threading genuine discomfort among improbable laughs. The humor in “Downhill” is broader, which is fine in itself, but the movie is also sloppy, timid and unsure of its tone. It isn’t disturbing, just annoying.
Early in their stay at a luxurious mountain resort — after they meet the sexed-up Euro-trash-caricature concierge (Miranda Otto) but before the arrival of the hashtag-crazy millennial-caricature couple (Zach Woods and Zoe Chao) — Pete and Billie experience something that threatens to destabilize their relationship. A “controlled avalanche” set off by the resort’s management looks as if it’s going out of control and heading for the outdoor restaurant where the family is about to have lunch. Pete flees in a panic, grabbing his phone and leaving Billie with the terrified children. Later, he denies and downplays his cowardice, while Billie seethes.
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*** Audience Reviews ***
"If you walk into Downhill expecting a comedy, you'll be disappointed. And if you're hoping for a worthy remake of a great original, you'll be appalled."
"It's funny, well-observed and altogether terrific."
"This is more Curb Your Enthusiasm than Elf and it is all the better for it."
"Downhill is an immensely satisfying cinema experience and a sequel - there certainly is scope for one - would be a most desirable thing."