Sir Michael Caine plays a dying patriarch who lives with his son (Josh Lucas), grandson, and horror movie-obsessed Danish live-in carer (Glenne Headly!). Turning up unannounced one day is Caine’s estranged son Christopher Walken (!), though it turns out Caine wrote to the family black sheep, wanting to see him one last time. Lucas, however isn’t happy to see the ex-junkie father who hasn’t been in his life since he was a kid. Anyway, grandpa soon dies, and his will states that the three remaining generations of male family members take his ashes on a road trip of a bunch of KFC restaurants in the US. Yeah, I’m really not kidding about that. It really is the plot. Along the way, Walken and Lucas rehash the past, which is undoubtedly what Caine was trying to orchestrate in order for his family to finally heal old wounds. But some wounds leave giant, gaping holes and too much blood may have already lost. Yep, pretty much went all the way with that didn’t I? Meanwhile, Walken appears to be hiding something, which will gradually and eventually be revealed.
How does a film with this cast produce such utterly mediocre results? It’s all about the script, folks. This 2004 family drama from writer-director Jordan Roberts (who tellingly has only five other minor writing credits and has only directed one film since, in 2012) isn’t half the film you want it to be and Sir Michael Caine looks nothing like Christopher Walken, nor is he even old enough to be his father, he’s only ten years older than Walken! (Josh Lucas and Christopher Walken convince as father and son, though). He’s otherwise OK in the role for the most part, but he doesn’t even get the Yank accent right. Mostly though, it’s just that the script isn’t any good, refusing to take place on any level of reality, which robs it of any emotional resonance whatsoever. A film about this subject should produce the tears (the core subject matter is very relatable), but Roberts has gone for a quirkier than quirky vibe, where everyone’s a little nuts, especially in the first third.
Christopher Walken gives one of his best-ever performances here (the underrated Josh Lucas is fine too), and that’s a shame because the film doesn’t deserve such talent. Also, it has to be said that this is the worst case of gratuitous product placement I’ve seen since 1988’s “Mac and Me” (Does anyone buy Caine as a fan of the Colonel anyway? I love the stuff, but Caine? Unlikely). This script needed a do-over, preferably from someone not hell-bent on making a quirky indie movie that no one can relate to. The fact that the story is autobiographical means nothing, if you can’t get your audience to actually believe it. There’s just too much nonsense here that the potentially interesting fractured father/son relationship material is pretty much collapsing under the weight of all that off-putting quirkiness. When you find out what Walken did that was so bad all those years ago, it’s disturbing and there’s no easy answers to whether he should be forgiven or not. I liked that, it was really interesting. But the rest? Ugh.
Lucas and especially Walken are terrific, but they can’t save this eye-roller of a film where- get this- workaholic Lucas has a mobile phone pretty much surgically attached to his ear. “Rain Man”, anyone? 1988, anyone? No, this just won’t do at all.