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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

photo caption:
FOUR GENERATIONS ENJOY A RESPITE: The Lair family patriarch Henry (Michael Caine, standing left), next to his grandson Jason (Josh Lucas), rests his hand on his great grandson Zach's shoulder (Jonah Bobo) who is sitting next to his grandfather Turner (Christopher Walken, lower right). The quartet of males is enjoying an outing at a local fast food chain restaurant.
end caption.

"Around the Bend": Impending Funeral Inspires Male-Bonding in Multi-Generational Family Drama

Review by Kam Williams


Regrettably, Around the Bend, a bittersweet, male-dominated melodrama, might have a hard time finding its niche. Its cast is mostly men, but its character-driven plot revolves around emotional issues which are more likely to interest a female audience.

The film stars two-time Academy Award-winner Sir Michael Caine as octogenarian Henry Lair, the terminally-ill patriarch of a disintegrating, dysfunctional family. The versatile screen veteran turns in an engaging performance opposite another Oscar-winner, Christopher Walken, and a cast of lesser known actors.

As the story opens, we find Henry living in Los Angeles with his grandson, Jason (Josh Lucas), a mild-mannered manager at a local bank. The boring, reliable Jason was left by his artist wife to raise their 6 year-old son (Jonah Bobo) after she ran off to Nepal. Henry is also estranged from his father Turner (Walken), an ex-con with a checkered past.

Turner returns after a 30-year absence, and the son's presence offers the Lair clan an opportunity to clear the air, bond, and bury the hatchet. Though it is intimated early on that there is a skeleton in the family closet, Around the Bend unfolds slowly, taking its time to reveal the particulars of the family's secret.

The story meanders and digresses for over an hour, focusing on Henry's dismay at the prospect of being buried six feet underground. The curmudgeon sneaks away from home and from the care of his Danish nurse, Katrina (Glenne Headly) for a meal with his precocious great-grandson at the local KFC. There, he designs an elaborate alternative to traditional services upon his death, scribbling instructions on whatever is at hand: a place mat, post-it notes, and other scraps of paper.

His funeral instructions take the three surviving generations of Lairs from Los Angeles to Albuquerque on a road trip during which they stop to scatter ashes at places of significance to the family. Writer/director Jordan Roberts earns high marks for generating chemistry among members of a talented cast in an intimate story.

The movie is marred by its frequent Kentucky Fried Chicken references, an increasingly annoying commercial distraction which presumably helped offset production costs.

Very good (Three Stars). Rated R for profanity. Running time: 85 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers Independent.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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