Downhill review: Will Ferrell pulls his punches in a damp snowslide remake

This American warm-over of Ruben Östlund’s icy fatherhood satire Force Majeure brings little to the table besides a withering Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.

Joshua Rothkopf

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Billie and Will Ferrell as Pete Stanton in Downhill

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Billie and Will Ferrell as Pete Stanton in Downhill

A comedy of collapsing masculinity, Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure, a 2014 Swedish psychodrama about a ski trip gone belly up, found endless ways to box in its unravelling dad. Downhill, the perfectly unnecessary US remake, doesn’t have nearly as much visual sophistication; its co-directors, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, are better known as screenwriters (The Descendants).

Still, the premise is too durable to botch. A family – now distinctly American and neurotic amid the free-spirited guests of a Eurotrashy chalet – witnesses a ‘controlled avalanche’ that’s too close for comfort. When the cloud of snow lifts, Pete (Will Ferrell) is noticed to have selfishly sprinted away from danger, leaving his wife and kids behind.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes a meal out of her big confrontation, less a confession of disappointment than an outpouring of withering marital fury. (It’s Downhill’s one improvement on the original: other modifications are showy and ineffective, such as a luge chase and a meltdown over a missing glove at a helicopter base.)

Inexplicably, Ferrell is the weakest link, downplaying his character’s blooming sense of insecurity despite a celebrated propensity for arialike tantrums. Why wasn’t he allowed to go full Step Brothers and weep out his failure in the hotel hallway while maids look on? If you saw Force Majeure, that’s the scene we were all waiting for.

Silicon Valley’s Zach Woods, meanwhile, as a co-worker hoping to steer clear of the mess, is too timid to provide a comic foil. The movie turns ice into slush.


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