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Dysfunctional may be the current catch phrase for people experiencing problems at home, but in the case of the Grombergs, its more an issue of distraction. Caught up in the frenzy of their personal lives, they've become disconnected from one another.
At the beck and call of a ringing cell phone, Alex Gromberg (Michael Douglas) is a New York lawyer and former politician so preoccupied with his work life and community service that he barely realizes the seriousness of family responsibilities. His include raising two sons with his wife Rebecca (Bernadette Peters) and caring for his aging parents, Mitchell (Kirk Douglas) and Evelyn (Diana Douglas). Although unable to forgive the lack of fatherly involvement in his own childhood, Alex doesn't recognize the cycle is being repeated with his boys. While he deals with legal matters and the impassioned advances of a co-volunteer, he is unaware that Asher (Cameron Douglas), their university student, is trafficking drugs or that quiet, 11-year-old Eli (Rory Culkin) has a lot of unasked questions.
In the meantime, his father (Kirk Douglas) doesn't let an opportunity pass to reprove Alex, even if it means spoiling their Jewish religious celebrations. Despite Evelyn's (Diana Douglas) pleas to make peace with their son, Mitchell carries on until several family crises bring them all up short. Facing death, criminal charges and accusations of infidelity leaves the Grombergs with the options of failure or reconciliation. But learning to overcome the past proves painful.
It Runs in the Family embraces many of the ingredients needed for making an intriguing drama ---moments that promise to be revealing, moving, even enlightening. However, in the end, it fails to add the emotional element required to pull it off. Given the weight of their troubles, it's going to take a long time if change is ever to happen. But even with the inclusion of consequences for some of their actions, it's hard to know if things will really be different when a new day dawns.
While the script may be thrifty with emotions, it's spiced up with abundant content concerns. Derogatory racial terms and profanities are prevalent in the dialogue while sexual material consists of blatant innuendo, near nudity and passionate lip locks between unmarried couples. Escalating clashes (one involving a knife held to a child's throat) are left unresolved, with the potential for more trouble to follow. Young adults use illegal drugs and consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Also, a preteen child is shown smoking.
With three generations of the Douglas clan on screen, this film truly is a family affair. Too bad all that high-powered charisma couldn't give rise to a more satisfying conclusion.
It Runs in the Family is rated PG-13: for drug content, sexual material and language.
Cast: Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, Rory Culkin, Bernadette Peters