This movie failed a bunch of different levels and it’s too bad, because the cast is talented and the idea could have been funny — had it been played more comedically and less drab and dreary.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus from freaking Seinfeld and Will Ferrell as a married couple? This should not be comedy bile.
How did this go so wrong?
Downhill is a remake of the 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure — which, years after its premiere, still sparks arguments at certain sorts of parties over whether it is a drama or a comedy. (It’s a comedy, obviously.) The tale of a couple who bring their children on a ski trip, nearly get swallowed by an avalanche, and then watch as fractures in their marriage become gaping maws won the hearts of both critics and people who love very darkly funny movies, and Downhill retains some of its predecessor’s weird humor while injecting a sensibility of its own.Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus on making Downhill – Vox
Before getting to the critique and pullquotes from other movie bloggers, it’s worth noting that this is pure SPOILER territory. If you want to see this snow lift accident of a movie, then exit here now and come back later.
…. you have been warned, SPOILERS ahead …
Now let’s dress down this snowpocalypse.
Too Much Sardonic Wit, Not Enough Comedy
Sarcasm is a tough thing to pull off well. I always felt like Seinfeld did sardonic wit better than most any other show. I mean, there’s a reason it was so successful and it wasn’t just the lead, Jerry Seinfeld. Every great comedy lead needs straight comics to play off. Lucy had Desi , Fred and Ethel. Can you imagine a show with just Desi, Fred and Ethel without Lucy?
Will Ferrell is much better when he’s in Stepbrothers mode. Playing the crazy brother character against John C. Reilly. Or when he’s Ricky Bobbie in Talladega Nights. Every good Will Ferrell comedy puts him with a straight comic beside him.
Here, Ferrell is playing the straight comic. Or the man in a dramatic situation with his wife that is pissed off, ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated. Julia Louise-Dreyfuss has like no funny moments in this movie. She’s like frozen temperature throughout the film from the avalanche scene until the end.
There is event a moment when she’s supposed to be getting turned on by the ski instructor and that doesn’t even feel warm. She’s like not at all likable in this film. Such a shame that she either acted the role this way or the script demanded this coldness.
So compare her character, Bobbie, to Ferrell’s husband character that is also not funny and the movie comes off as a reality show of a very depressing family vacation from a long time married couple who is only good at fighting with each other. And doing it largely through rude expressions and limited dialogue.
This isn’t funny, it’s depressing
If this movie is trying to be funny, trying to make light of the avalanche, then why didn’t it go more crazy? Ferrell has the range to do something “out there” and yet he played it way too safe, serene and, well, almost like he was lobotomized.
Reviews by Others
I haven’t seen that many reviews from others for Downhill, so what’s pulled below represents a bit more digging than required for most new movies. I get it, writing negative reviews isn’t fun. I’d much rather write about a movie that I liked. When there aren’t a lot of reviews, this is often the worst kind of movie reviewer condemnation. Apathy, really.
Just for the record, I don’t think Downhill is terrible. There have been worse films already this year (The Turning, for one). It didn’t work at what it seemed to be trying to do. It failed miserably as a comedy and it was a very dry, boring marriage drama. Nobody seemed to be having a good time making the film and it translated to the viewers watching the film.
- Dyl’s Movie Stuff (7/10): “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.”
- Keith Noakes / Keith Loves Movies (78%): “…may not bring anything new to the table but is still a solid experience that was not only beautiful to look at but will also be done before you know it.”
- let the movie move us: “…has its ups and downs but never fails to deliver its point – we can say anything we want but in the end, we came to this world alone and will leave alone. And when something happens, the only person we will try to rescue first is ourselves.”
- zynchmedia (Grade: B): “As an attempt to scale the craggy heights of a marriage in crisis, Downhill may be more bunny slope than black diamond — a force mineure, but still worth the trip.”
- alexlynch695 / David A. Lynch: “Everywhere you look in “Downhill,” the elegance of its predecessor has been replaced with sloppy seconds—if it’s not evident in early attempts to wrangle humor out of a cartoony, heavily-accented caricature of a character, then check to make sure you can find your pulse. If you can, rush home to rent “Force Majeure” instead.”
- Bookshelf Battle: “The setup is great but the rest of the film is a slow burn, and although various questions posed are eventually answered, this one feels less like a movie and more like an extended sitcom episode.”
- Chris / filmmixtape: “What they observe in this marriage-on-the-rocks trifle is all too reliant on cliche to be impactful, making it too easy to write off Billie and Pete’s flounderings as their own, rather than ours.”
- Daniel M. Kimmel: “There are countless movies one can share on Valentine’s Day. “Downhill” isn’t one of them.”
- Ken Murray / The Nerds Templar: “I think that’s the best word to describe Downhill, awkward. It’s not funny despite having two really funny leads.”
- Josh Lasser / The TV and Film Guy’s Review (2/5): “Perhaps this is considered a comedy because it never gets far past the surface, but that’s a poor definition of comedy and a terrible tack to take.”
- Lawrence Lease / Cinema Gold: “As much as I adore Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfuss in mostly anything, their lack of chemistry makes you wonder why they would have gotten married in the first place.”
- M.N Miller / Ready Steady Cut: “…is lazy and comes out average at almost everything it tries instead of being great at one thing. It’s an overall flat experience, and that’s what’s the most offensive of all.”
- moviejoltz: “…in the case of this film I would only go see Force Majeure and skip this poor version of it.”
- Patrick Beatty Reviews (6/10): “If you love either of these actors definitely go and check it out. It has great performances and there are funny moments, even if the sum of its parts ends up making it kind of a mixed bag.”
Linked above and wondering what would be the cool thing to do next? Commenting once in awhile is always good (I like reader and other blogger interaction). If you have the trackback/pingback come to your site then just approve it because after people read your review then they can come here and follow links and read someone else’s review. What comes around goes around and sharing is the ultimate “thank you!” on the internet.
Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quoting from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.
Happy movie watching!