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EULOGY (R) (2004)

Lions Gate

Official Site

Director: Michael Clancy

Producers: Kirk D’Amico, Steven Haft, Richard B. Lewis

Written by: Michael Clancy

Cast: Debra Winger, Zooey Deschanel, Hank Azaria, Kelly Preston, Ray Romano, Piper Laurie, Rip Torn, Glenne Headly, Jesse Bradford, Famke Jansson, Keith Garcia, Curtis Garcia


I really put off writing this one, because, as they say, bad news will keep. And it pains me that the movie is bad news. I don’t even have the heart to ridicule it.

Straining at its seams to be irreverent, Eulogy is yet another “dysfunctional family” comedy, and it ain’t even that funny. Eulogy takes an ensemble cast that frankly had me salivating and rubbing my hands with glee, and throws it at the Velcro wall of comedy to see if anything sticks. If you pine for this sort of thing, see Jodie Foster’s far superior Home For The Holidays (1995).

Much of the story is related in voiceover by Kate Collins (Deschanel), the favored grandchild whom Ed Collins (Torn) chose to deliver his eulogy. Trouble is, Kate’s memories of Grandpa Ed are hazy, soft-focus Kodak moments that don’t really translate into words. So, for apparently the first time in her young life, Kate asks her relatives about Ed and—what a surprise—finds that their recollections are far less fond. Her father (Azaria), her aunts (Winger and Preston), and her uncle (Romano) recall only a self-absorbed SOB who traveled a lot. This, in fact, is about the only thing they can agree on. So you’ve got all these personalities thrown together for a weekend of recriminations followed by a funeral. What fun, eh?

Well, no. Part of the problem lies with the siblings that writer-director Clancy has created. These folks are such rigid types that it’s almost like he consulted a birth-order chart when he made them up. We have the “good” brother and the “wild” sister (in this case “wild” apparently merely because she’s a lesbian) and the control-freak sister and the always-overlooked brother. Then there’s the problem of Mr. Romano’s performance, for which he did not tax himself by diverging from his TV character. I did not love Raymond sufficiently to appreciate a sibling whose accents and intonations made him sound like no one else in the family. But Eulogy is also just a way too broadly drawn comedy, one that often deals in wacky for wacky’s sake, and that has some character motivations that are as neat and tidy as Psych 101. Believe you me, you’ll be shaking your head in wonderment that Winger’s character isn’t wise to herself. We the viewers are, ages before the movie finally takes her where we knew she was going all along, even before the cliché of Joan Armatrading music.

Jean Grey… uh, Famke Janssen and Hank Azaria are reliably entertaining. Deschanel is equal to the leading role thrust upon her here, and Jesse Bradford makes a charming love interest for her. Wasting the great Debra Winger ought to be a hanging offense, though, and it’s not clear to me what about this role enticed her from home and hearth.

Eulogy is full of good ideas, badly written. I recently ran into this syndrome with The Eyre Affair, a Jasper Fforde book that so many folks have recommended. No moviegoing experience is more frustrating than seeing fantastic resources—in this case, the talent—and exciting ideas squandered.

—Roxanne Bogucka

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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