Somewhere between Kirk Douglas’ decision to keep acting after a stroke impaired his speech and Michael Douglas’ decision to sell his wedding photos, the fences of privacy have fallen down around the show-business property known as the Douglas clan. Now comes It Runs in the Family, a sodden drama of filial conflict that dares the audience to confuse the characters with the players. P.T. Barnum couldn’t have come up with a better hook, but he would have rewarded his suckers with more ”On Golden Pond” entertainment bang for their buck. Fred Schepisi directs like a ringmaster for hire from a therapy-session script by Jesse Wigutow.
Michael D., who also produced, casts himself as high-powered lawyer Alex Gromberg, and his real-life parents and son – Kirk, Diana, and Cameron D. – as Alex’s family. With real-life wife Catherine Zeta-Jones otherwise busy hoofing and hawking, Bernadette Peters stands in as an ideal wifey. Tolerable conflicts involve Alex’s inability to communicate with his bullheaded father and screwed-up kid. Intolerable vanity involves the temptation of a sexy coworker (Sarita Choudhury) at the soup kitchen where Alex volunteers, who throws her hot young bod at Alex’s pouchy middle-aged carcass. Meanwhile, the strikingly talented Rory Culkin plays Alex’s younger son, in a performance far lovelier than this carny act knows what to do with.