(director/writer: Nat Faxon/Jim Rash; screenwriters: Jesse Armstrong/based on Force Majeure by Ruben Östlund; cinematographer: Danny Cohen; editor: Pamela Martin; music: Volker Bertelmann; cast:  Julia Louis Dreyfus (Billie Stanton), Will Ferrell (Pete Stanton), Miranda Otto (Lady Bobo, Charlotte), Zach Woods (Zach), Zoë Chao (Rosie), Alex Macqueen (Charlie), Julian Grey (Finn Stanton), Kristofer Hivju (Michel), (Charlie), Giulio Berruti (Guglielmo), Ammon Jacob Ford (Emerson Stanton); Runtime: 86; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Anthony Bregman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Stefanie Azpiazu; Searchlight Pictures; 2020)

The remake turns a serious magical movie into a shallow one.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A lesser remake of the brilliant 2014 Swedish black comedy art film Force Majeure by Ruben Östlund, that’s butchered as an American mainstream film and made into a bland, dreary and not funny remake that seems like a TV sitcom. It’s written by Jesse Armstrong and co-written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (“The Way Way Back”).

The affluent middle-class American Stanton family, the lawyer wife Billie (Julia Louis Dreyfus) and her real estate executive husband Pete (Will Ferrell) and their pre-adolescent sons Finn (Julian Grey) and Emerson (Ammon Jacob Ford) are on a week long Austrian ski vacation at an adult resort.

The couple’s marriage is testy. But on day 2 it becomes severely tested, as they all are set for lunch on a mountainside terrace, when they witness a controlled avalanche that seems to be coming right at them. Pete’s cowardly response is to run off with his iPhone, leaving his wife and kids on their own. It turns out that Billie and the kids are frightened but unharmed. Initially they are too confused to comment on Pete’s reprehensible action.

The title of Force Majeure, from the older film, was a reference to a legal term for an extraordinary event or an act of God that prevents parties from fulfilling a contract. What it means here is that Pete’s a bad family man, who cares more about himself than his family.

The vacation then goes on without another word about the incident. But for briefly a moment it gets interesting when one day Billie has enough and gives it to hubby in front of their sons, Pete’s coworker Zach (Zach Woods), and Zach’s girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao). But it quickly returns to safe mode as Pete admits he acted poorly by selfishly deserting them and what follows are some superficial comic bits that allow the incident to be trivialized and forgotten. The resort’s libertine hostess, Charlotte (Miranda Otto), visits the couple and fixes Billie up with the sexy Italian ski instructor Guglielmo (Giulio Berruti) while hubby gets drunk with Zach and gets set to get it on with the libertine hostess.

The remake turns a serious magical movie into a shallow one, one that is all downhill.