Monday, February 13, 2017

Movie Review: THE FAMILY FANG (2016)


Director: Jason Bateman
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery
Starring: Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, Maryann Plunkett, Kathryn Hahn, Jason Butler Harner, Josh Pais, Marin Ireland
Runtime: 105 min
Rating: R for some language
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.


Review by Popa Razvan

Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Kevin Wilson, "The Family Fang" is your typical gloomy indie dramedy. Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman star as Baxter and Annie Fang, siblings who are suffering as middle-aged adults due to growing up in a dysfunctional family. Their parents, Camille (Maryann Plunkett) and Caleb (Christopher Walken) are infamous for their peculiar performance art, crafting elaborate hoaxes meant to shake people out of their apathy. Growing up, Annie and Baxter were often actors in their outrageous pranks, but their parents' eccentric behavior left a mark on them, one that they haven't been able to shake as adults.

Annie is a successful actress, but an easy target for the tabloids, while Baxter is a writer with two novels under his belt, one a hit, and the other not so much. Neither has a family of their own, and they both seem to have reached a certain dead end in their careers. When Baxter suffers an idiotic potato gun accident while doing research for a two-bit article, the family is reunited and old wounds are cracked open. Their parents decide to go on holiday, but end up disappearing, leaving behind only their car and traces of blood, which would suggest a crime scene. The siblings are not convinced that it's not simply another hoax and most of the film focuses on their struggle to deal with the past and figure out what happened to their parents.

Bateman also directs the film, his second dark comedy following the 2013 directorial debut "Bad Words". While that film was more of a straight comedy, it shares the same dark mood and exploration of damaged characters. Between the two, though, I enjoyed "Bad Words" a little more for its originality and because it wasn't afraid to be shamelessly offensive, which payed off in the end.

"The Family Fang" is not the kind of film that has any major insight to share, and it's not the most original story about dysfunctional families. Even though it revels in quirkiness, it lacks the edge that would distinguish it from other films. The only reason that the film works a lot better than it should is the cast that carries it through. Bateman, Kidman and Walken deliver terrific performances and dig deep into their characters. There are also some interesting twists along the way that I wasn't expecting, which livened up the proceedings considerably. However, most of it is pretty depressing as Annie and Baxter sulk and deal with the fallout of their parents' eccentricities.

Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman in a scene from The Family Fang

Walken, in particular, is pure delight. Throughout his career he's developed a certain fame for wacky speeches, and his work in this film is definitely among the best of his career. I couldn't even imagine any other actor for this part. He's absolutely perfect and really sinks his teeth into it.

Although you might find this billed as a comedy, it's not really. There is some dark humor throughout, but it may not be everyone's cup of tea. I personally enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I would watch it a second time. It really depends on your mood and taste for this kind of film. I would recommend you give it a try, but keep expectations in check.



  • Terrific performances from Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman
  • Oscar-worthy performance from Christopher Walken
  • Some interesting ideas and twists that make the dysfunctional family plot rise slightly above familiar territory

  • Not all that original
  • Sometimes lacks a good balance between humor and gloominess


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