Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell, Miranda Otto, Zoe Chao, Zach Woods, Kristofer Hivju
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A grating, gentrified mess that reflects Ugly Americanisms, both as a production and as cinematic narrative.
Is it too much to expect remakes to be as good, or at least as notable, as the original? In the age of Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria, and even Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man, there’s more reason to think so than one would expect. But then, the typical feelings come rushing in, and when attached to a film with a title that’s basically a kick-me sign for pull-quote-seeking critics, it can feel all too obvious to even point out. So, before getting into the remake issues here, let’s dive into the everything-else-that-is-wrong issues with this thing.
An ostensible black comedy, writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Way Way Back) never manage to find the right tonal lane to make the main premise work to their advantage. Julia Louis-Dreyfus far exceeds the material she’s given (which given the plot’s mild resemblance to Seinfeld’s ‘The Fire’, that might be because she’s technically done it already), but she’s the only one who manages to sell the crumbling mood of the core marital friction.
Otherwise, it’s Will Ferrell on his Daddy’s Home kick once again, their sons who look about as psyched to be here as we are, and Mirando Otto as the kind of European caricature that might fill some audiences with the urge to chew through their armrests. It’s difficult to take seriously, and even more difficult to find funny. Especially when the humour is largely derived from talking too loud, talking for too long, not talking loud or long enough, and social cringe that only highlights the discomfort, rather than the social norms that create it in the first place.
It’s a pretty tired affair all on its own, but as a remake of 2014’s Force Majeure, its flaws only grow even deeper. Any resemblance of psychological edge that existed in the original has been essentially babyproofed, lest the actors catch themselves on an actual point to what they’re saying or doing, and whatever genuinely interesting ideas it presented are replaced with middle-aged ennui that is as bland as anything. Both because the dialogue is just that weak, and the characters spouting it are lacking in tangible empathy or even humanity.
The only person here who looks more out of place than Louis-Dreyfus is Jesse Armstrong in the writer’s room, as his work with Mitchell & Webb, Chris Morris and even his stint on Black Mirror show that he can balance dark comedy with an even darker examination of the human animal. But instead, he and everyone else’s talents are wasted on a project that epitomises the worst case scenario for an American remake of a European film: A grating, gentrified mess that reflects Ugly Americanisms, both as a production and as cinematic narrative.
Maybe it’ll convince some audiences to check out the original, but with how much this has hacked it to pieces, all without adding anything of its own worth to the mix, it wouldn’t be surprising if it completely turned people away from ever looking at Force Majeure. And that, quite frankly, is the worst thing that a remake can do.