Around the Bend

on October 08, 2004 by Susan Green
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True to the male-bonding genre template, "Around the Bend" is a road movie that churns up everything required for a good laugh and a good cry. Although this predictable directorial debut by screenwriter Jordan Roberts is semi-autobiographical, it doesn't necessarily have the ring of truth. His characters are a bit too quirky and the story sags under the weight of its own cleverness. That said, who could resist Michael Caine as Henry Lair, a sharp senior citizen with a passion for archaeological digs? At death's door, he maps out a future: His estranged son Turner (Christopher Walken), banker grandson Jason (Josh Lucas) and young great-grandson Zach (Jonah Bobo) are expected honor the old man's last wishes by traveling together from California to New Mexico.

Instead of a standard funeral service, the patriarch wants a tribal ritual in the Southwestern desert. But the Lairs are dysfunctional. For one thing, there's nary a woman in sight apart from Henry's Danish nurse (Glenne Headly). Jason's soon-to-be-ex-wife (Kathryn Hahn) is busy following her muse in Nepal--which little Zach calls Nipple, a laugh riot for these guys. The disheveled Turner long ago abandoned the family, adopting a life of drugs and petty theft. But can redemption be far behind in any movie with a feel-good message about blood being thicker than water?

"Around the Bend" soon moves into disingenuous territory. Level-headed Jason is suddenly singled out as the only tightly-wound member of an otherwise freewheeling clan. He reluctantly agrees to eat only at KFC on their trek, as demanded by Henry's will. Lucky for them there's a fried chicken outlet in almost every town across America. Product placement masquerades as a badge of courage, but this is one tribal ritual that's bad for the heart. Starring Michael Caine, Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas, Jonah Bobo and Glenne Headly. Directed and written by Jordan Roberts. Produced by Elliott Lewitt and Julie Kirkham. A Warner Independent release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for language. Running time: 83 min

Tags: Michael Caine, Christopher Walken, Josh Lucas, Jonah Bobo, Glenne Headly, Jordan Roberts, Elliott Lewitt, Julie Kirkham, Warner Independent, Comedy/drama, tribes, dysfunctional, humor, tearjerker, desert
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