We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

The impact of the Douglas clan on the last 50 years of American cinema has been tremendous: Spartacus, Gordon Gekko, and, uh, that guy from Disclosure. It’s heartwarming, then, with patriarch Kirk fighting back from a stroke, that in It Runs in the Family, the brood gets to express love for one another and for the medium of film all at once. That’s not to say that the movie is the slightest bit watchable—in fact, the release of It Runs in the Family as theatrical entertainment is some of the most deceptive marketing since that buy-lots-of-Pepsi-and-get-a-Harrier-jet campaign. Things start off with a montage of family photos that stand in for those of the fictional Gromberg clan: a barrel-chested Kirk Douglas (aka Mitchell Gromberg); his first wife, Diana Douglas (Evelyn); their son Michael (Alex); and Michael’s son Cameron (Asher). The snapshots pop up whenever the script lags—which is to say, repeatedly, for the entire duration of the film. Sitting through the movie is like watching a two-hour video montage commissioned for the 50th anniversary of somebody else’s grandparents. Rory Culkin (brought in as part of America’s ongoing Culkin Dispersal Project) and Bernadette Peters (no plausible explanation) round out the Grombergs, a feudin’ Jewish family that’s dysfunctional in all the expected ways: Mitchell is as cantankerous as they come; Alex means well but answers his cell phone at the dinner table; Asher says “bro” and screws up in school. The performances aren’t bad, but Jesse Wigutow’s screenplay certainly is. On the way to everyone’s coming to terms with the cantankering and “bro”-saying, plot development has been all but abandoned. (The resolution to that Harlem rent strike in the second act must have been lost under a stack of yellowing Polaroids.) The Douglas family certainly deserves to display its talents together, but with a script this thin, it’s hard to understand why It Runs in the Family didn’t just go straight to camcorder. —Josh Levin