October 11, 2014

Movie Review: The Judge

The trailer for The Judge made it look like an interesting look into the relationship of an estranged father and son, a dissection of what makes them tick, what drove them apart, and ultimately what will bring them back together. Well, that might be a little bit more ambitious than what we actually get, but it sounds good, right? Frankly, this movie left me tired and uninspired when it comes to actually writing about. Besides having a solid cast, there is not a lot going in this movies favor. It is over-dramatic, sentimental, and hardly entertaining. The end result of this movie feels like an experiment showing Robert Downey, Jr. playing it straight outside of his Iron and Sherlock performances of late.

David Dobkin was behind the camera for this one, and like Shawn Levy's recent This is Where I Leave You, feels ill suited for this work. Dobkin has primarily worked in the comedic realm prior to this,with movies like The Chang-Up, Fred Claus, and The Wedding Crashes to his credit. He is like a fish out of water directing the sentimental drama here, employing comedic standbys of bodily fluid humor in a more dramatic fashion (it doesn't work). Working from a screenplay by Nick Schenk (Gran Torino) and Bill Dubuque (this is his first credit), Dobkin moves from point A to point B with little grace. The movie substitutes sentimentality and snarkiness for drama and emotional involvement.

The movie feels like a dramatization of My Cousin Vinny. Sure, there are some obvious differences, but there is a lot of similarities. You know, big city lawyer defending a family member in a courtroom drama while things get heated outside the courthouse. Blah, blah, blah. There really isn't anything here that feels all that fresh or original. No, that isn't a bad thing if the execution works, it doesn't here. There are moments strewn throughout that hint at something bigger, but it never comes together. Sometimes there is the obvious, something bad is brewing among the characters followed immediately by an impending tornado. Subtle, a storm is coming. Very subtle.

The Judge does have one saving grace, the cast. Yes, Robert Downey, Jr. is playing a variation of his Stark persona, but he does it so well. He is rather mesmerizing in this mode and helps make the movie watchable. Duvall has moments, but there are some elements that I think would have been best not to see, if you saw it, you probably know what I am talking about. The cast works hard to try and elevate the mundane material, and while it is a valiant attempt, it is not enough to recommend it.

For a movie that runs the better part of two and a half hours, it does not feel like all that much happens. It spins its wheels giving us the points we need but not the content we want. The Judge comes up flat with few moments of energy. This is an easy one to recommend a pass on. If you must see it, wait for home video.

Not Recommended.

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