Originally Published: February 28, 2020
What can I say about this Will Ferrell/Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led “dramedy?” Well, the comedy part of Downhill is completely non-existent. And I should have known that the film was a flop when I walked into an empty theater at a prime time on a Friday night.
The movie follows a family dealing with the aftermath of a near-death experience of an avalanche, where Pete (Will Ferrell) chooses to run away and save himself, instead of protecting his children like his wife Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) does. The entirety of the film’s plot revolves around this one incident and quickly leaves audience members feeling bored. I thought this might be a jumping off point for the comedy pair realizing that their marriage is actually full of problems that they are not addressing; but I was sorely mistaken. Instead the couple’s issues seem to only be in direct response to this near-death experience. Will Ferrell is in denial of his actions and does everything he can to avoid talking about them, while Julia Louis-Dreyfus wants to address them head on.
The chemistry between the married couple even before the avalanche occurs is bad. And between the huge family fight scene and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ supposedly steamy moments with her skiing instructor, the dialogue is awkward at best. After that, all you’re left with is an extremely sexually liberated Miranda Otto (The Lord of Rings, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) pouring on a really fake European accent.
The cast and plot doesn’t offer much on the diversity side either; in fact, Zoe Chao is the only non-white character in the main cast. Thankfully, though, her character is not an Asian stereotype, and she instead portrays a young free spirit who likes to live in the moment.
Downhill is actually an American adaptation of the 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure, and like so many others remakes, the new version is not as good as the original. Overall, the film felt extremely flat and I was expecting more from the Oscar-winning duo of Jim Rash and Nat Faxon.