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Movie Review: 'Around the Bend' is deep-fried quirky

Published November 5, 2004 12:09 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2004, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Around the Bend

A too-strange family bonds on the road in this slack comedy-drama.

Rated R for language; 85 minutes.

Opening today at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.

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How many eccentricities can a movie's cast of characters have before the movie collapses from the sheer weight of them? Well, take the number of eccentricities in the comedy-drama "Around the Bend," then subtract about 20.

Writer and director Jordan Roberts' story centers on the male members of the Lair family. Jason (played by Josh Lucas) is separated from his wife and caring for their 6-year-old son, Zach (Jonah Bobo), along with Jason's ailing grandfather, Henry (Michael Caine), who raised Jason since age 2 when his dad, Turner (Christopher Walken), walked out. Turner arrives unexpectedly one day, planning to visit Henry and take off the next day. Henry decides to celebrate by taking his family to KFC.

But when the next day comes, Henry is found dead at that KFC, having left a cryptic set of clues for Turner and Jason to follow to dispose of Henry's ashes. So Turner, Jason and Zach load Henry's old van for a road trip across the Southwest, carrying out Henry's funeral rituals and eating at KFCs. (If anybody earned his or her paycheck in this movie, it's the person in charge of product placement.)

Being a touchy-feely road movie, there are obligatory scenes of Jason and Turner arguing, reconciling and arguing again - each one sadly predictable and performed as rote acting exercises. Roberts lets his actors run loose, leading to such embarrassments as Caine's unidentifiable accent or Glenne Headly's turn as Henry's Danish nurse.

Walken is reliably offbeat, and the strange way he bends a line of dialogue is the only spontaneous fun "Around the Bend" allows its audience.

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