PARK CITY, Utah: Sometimes, combining a lot of things we love makes something even better. See: Long Island Iced Tea and puggles. Other times, mixing all our favorite things causes an unfortunate disaster. See: Chocolate wine and the movie “Downhill”.
That comedy, which premiered on Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival, brings together Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Will Ferrell and the plot of an acclaimed European film. “Count on me!”, You think. But, unfortunately, merlot simply does not taste like cocoa beans.
The “Downhill”, half funny, is a new version of a European film called “Force Majeure”, and, as when your friend begins to casually call the elevators as “elevators”, something does not feel quite right. Louis-Dreyfus and Ferrell, both broad comics, are immersed in a mold too subtle and somewhat pretentious that makes more sense to John Krasinski than Elaine Bennes and Ron Burgundy.
You hit your foot impatiently while waiting for the belly to laugh. They never do.
Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus play a married couple, Billie and Pete, who have taken their two young children on a ski trip, while also solving deep relationship problems. That conjugal rift becomes an abyss when, during a controlled avalanche, Pete runs out into the cabin, leaving his family to manage alone. Nobody dies, that would be too interesting! – But Billie is furious and the two end up spending most of their remaining vacations.
That is a silly inciting incident like Ralph-Wiggum for a comedy. Americans are known throughout the world for our volume and openness, and for such a trivial, existential and, I dare to say, that the European tiff to derail an expensive vacation for more than 20 minutes does not sound true. Absolutely. But that is what “Downhill” has to work with.
Well, that, and some tremendous supportive performances that eclipse the legendary protagonists. Miranda Otto as a sexually frustrated Austrian hotel worker and Kristofer Hivju (Tormund of “Game of Thrones”) as a security patrolman in the mountains laugh more in her five minutes on screen than the rest of the movie.
There is also a sexy lottery ski instructor named Guglielmo who tries to seduce Billie. It is played by actor Giulio Berruti. Deliciously, Berruti’s first film credit was in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” in 2003, in which he assumed the role of Italian # 2. Louis-Dreyfus is funny trapped in a cabin with a stallion lit in the silly steam stream. What is closest to Ferrell is when he incorrectly believes that a younger woman is hitting him at the bar.
But in general, the pairing of these two comedy titans is forgettable and slow as an ice age. To put it in the language of skiing: “Downhill” is pizza when you need french fries.