After spending the better part of a decade mugging to the rafters in such films as The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Analyze That, Robert De Niro opts to underplay in the family drama Everybody's Fine. But don't let this opposite approach sucker you in: De Niro isn't low-key as much as he's merely lethargic, and it's yet one more dismissive turn from an actor who once owned a major chunk of seminal '70s cinema.
De Niro stars as Frank Goode, a widower who, disappointed that all four of his grown children have canceled plans to come visit him, decides instead to surprise all of them on their own respective doorsteps. He first visits David, an artist living in New York, but David never turns up at his own apartment. Undeterred, Frank presses forward, visiting in rapid succession his daughter Amy (Kate Beckinsale), an advertising executive, his son Robert (Sam Rockwell), a symphony musician, and his other daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore), a Vegas entertainer. It turns out that all three are hiding things from their dad -- about David as well as about themselves.
Writer-director Kirk Jones makes an unhealthy number of unwise decisions, from pacing to casting to his mise en scene selections. Awkward and ill-matched, the members of the big-name cast fail to impress, although Rockwell comes closest to making his character something more than a dullard. Dramatic crises are played out in predictable fashion, with the one deviation from formula -- a climactic scene in which Frank imagines his offspring looking like children but arguing with him like adults -- proving to be disastrous.
Although a remake of a 1990 Italian import starring Marcello Mastroianni, Everybody's Fine also has much in common, both thematically and narratively, with a Jack Nicholson gem from a few years back. Ultimately, though, this is less About Schmidt and more about nothing much.