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MGM Studios DVD presents
It Runs in the Family (2003)

Mitchell: You are a much better father than I was.
Alex: Well you didn't exactly set the bar all that high.

- Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: December 30, 2003

Stars: Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, Cameron Douglas
Other Stars: Rory Culkin, Bernadette Peters, Diana Douglas
Director: Fred Schepsi

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for drug content, sexual material, and language
Run Time: 01h:48m:31s
Release Date: October 21, 2003
UPC: 027616896544
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B C+A-B+ B+

DVD Review

If nothing else, It Runs In The Family will serve as a big-budget home movie for the Douglas family. By involving several generations of the gifted acting family, the film places the trials and tribulations of Kirk, Michael, and Cameron Douglas into a script that seems somewhat melodramatic, presenting situations simply for added dramatic weight.

The film centers around three generations of the Gromberg family and the events that occur in an effort to bring everyone back together again. Alex (Michael Douglas) is a high-powered attorney in the firm that his father, Mitchell (Kirk Douglas), founded. He is a decent man with a nice family, including his wife Rita (Peters) and sons Asher (Cameron Douglas) and Eli (Culkin). When Alex is not spending his time volunteering at the local soup kitchen, he is enjoying a casual affair with a sexy co-worker, as well as tending to the troubles of the drug addled Asher and the rebellious Eli.

For a film that features a family whose public lives have been on display, it is disappointing that It Runs in the Family feels so tame. The central themes of the script involve redemption and reconciliation, but these issues are handled more as melodramatic filler than anything else. Overall, the film is just too safe in its composition; there are moments where Mithcell and Alex discuss the elder's abilities as a father and how that may have shaped Alex's life, but these moments are brief and frustratingly overwrought in a film dealing with such heavy issues as drug abuse, infidelity, and medical crisis.

And while these moments do offer some true emotional resonance at one point or another, it is all the more disappointing when the film's final act offers no real sense of closure. The script forsakes any sort of denouement, instead offering more sentimental schmaltz that, by this point, is about as welcome as the flu.

The performances are what saves It Runs in the Family. Both Michael and Kirk Douglas do fine work, but with the script providing some truly cringe-inducing lines, it is difficult to take them seriously. Cameron Douglas, in his film debut, gives an assured performance in several scenes with real life father Michael.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 widscreen transfer It Runs in the Family looks impressive from the first frame to the last. Colors are rich and lush with the colors of Autumn coming off very nicely. The deep blacks and blues of the night settings as well as those set in the city offer nice depth and show very little grain. There are a few moments of slight edge enhancement, but they are nothing to drag down the quality of this otherwise terrific transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is slightly better than most other dramas in that for once the mix makes use of the separate channels. The dialogue from the center channel sounds crisp and clear with no distortion or dropouts while the left and right surround speakers offer nice directionality without being showy, the mark of a fine surround mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Fred Schepsi
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: While not a full blown special edition, It Runs in the Family offers a handful of extra features that are generally pleasing. The first is a commentary track by director Fred Schepsi that is generally average in its overall quality, but there are some interesting topics to be found. Schepsi discusses, of course, the Douglas family, especially his admiration and respect for Kirk Douglas and his work ethic, as the veteran actor could spend only limited time working each day. The track largely focuses on the individual contributions of each member of the Douglas family and it is worth a listen for fans of the film.

There are three deleted scenes that offer no real insight into the finished film and were rightfully excised, including an alternate opening that would have immediately taken the viewer out of the film in my opinion, something that now happens just a few minutes later in the finished product.

Two documentaries are offered, and each, as is to be expected, focuses on the Douglas family. The first is a 30-minute "making of" documentary. The second features Kirk Douglas' career and offers interviews with collaborators and his family. It is a nice career retrospective of the legendary actor and fans will be generally pleased.

The original theatrical trailer and a photo gallery round out the extra features.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Overall, I can't say that I liked It Runs in the Family, but with a script as emotionally manipulative as this one by Jesse Wigutow, it is hard to offer anything nicer to say.


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