Around the Bend (2004)


(director/writer: Jordan Roberts; cinematographer: Michael Grady; editor: Françoise Bonnot; music: David Baerwald; cast: Michael Caine (Henry Lair), Jonah Bobo (Zach Lair), Josh Lucas (Jason Lair), Glenne Headly (Katrina), Christopher Walken (Turner Lair), David Eigenberg (John); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Julie Kirkham/Elliott Lewitt; Warner Independent Pictures; 2004)

“There’s not much happening even when the viewer eventually gets around the bend.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There’s not much happening even when the viewer eventually gets around the bend. Writer-director Jordan Roberts debut film is a poorly made contrived and uninteresting sentimental (supposedly thinking man’s) road movie that tells about dying and healing family wounds, timeworn material that never kicks in and becomes an involving story. It’s a fractured film that shows its flaws through its mechanical filming techniques and grating speechifying lessons. Scenes stick out and never meld into one seamless story. Despite the usual eccentrics delivered by character actor Christopher Walken, some mildly humorous developments, some rock songs from Dylan and company in the background, this one’s a snoozer.

The plot line involves the skeletons coming out of the closet for a California family of four generations. Henry Lair (Michael Caine) is a cantankerous retired archaeologist who drops dead from old age at a KFC (strangely enough it wasn’t from the chow) while completing his will at the table, leaving behind elaborate instructions to his surviving ex-junkie and petty criminal son he hasn’t had contact with for some 30 years, Turner Lair (Christopher Walken), to travel together with his estranged son Jason (Josh Lucas) and Jason’s animated but cloying adolescent son Zach (Jonah Bobo) for the disposal of his ashes at KFCs across the southwest.

Henry has been cared for by his sober-minded 30-year-old banker grandson Jason (Josh Lucas), who is alone taking care of Zach ever since his painter wife left him to pursue her career. Also present in the home is a friendly live-in caregiver from Denmark, Katrina (Glenne Headly).

Turner has walked out of a prison hospital, where he is dying from kidney failure, to reunite with his son Jason and introduce himself to Zach (who had been told his grandfather was dead).

The dysfunctional family of three journey together in an old van and experience some surprises. The highlight being that Turner’s dark secret of why he abandoned his family is revealed. Their outward goal is met when they reach Albuquerque and scatter the ashes, and by the journey’s end they all know each other in a much better light after checking off every item in the long laundry list of things to do when healing old wounds.