Review: ‘Downhill’ kinda sucks but it has its moments
Ski movies aren’t my bag. The idea of watching skiing with a story rather than a story that happens to involve skiing is stupid to me. “Downhill” is stupid, but it’s a ski movie for people who don’t care about ski movies. It at least has something else to offer besides #SickPowBro.
To be clear: nothing against you, Warren Miller, but I just don’t care about watching skiing like that. It’s fun during the Winter Olympics and in the final 30 minutes of “Dumb and Dumber.” The 2020 remake of “Downhill” is literally watching a couple (even if momentarily) fall out of love, and it’s not a character study the way something like “500 Days of Summer” is. It’s just sad.
You’d think that Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as leads would mean the movie would be great, No. 1, and No. 2, have the kind of comedy that made each of them famous. That’s what I was expecting — mind you, I didn’t read a plot synopsis before — and I have to say, it’s quite jarring walking into the theater expecting a comedy and getting the opposite.
There are some funny ski moments from them: Ferrell trying to stuff his hat with a pom-pom under a helmet before giving up, Louis-Dreyfus ripping off her gloves with her teeth and getting under four layers to have an intimate self-care moment in the bathroom stall (she just had her leg massaged by a hot Italian ski instructor).
But the majority of the movie is watching this couple get in a fight that seriously could lead to divorce. After a morning of skiing, Ferrell’s Pete, Louis-Dreyfus’ Billie and their two kids go to a mountain chalet for lunch. They’re sitting outside when an avalanche comes barreling down the mountain, nearly separating the family both literally and figuratively. It takes them a whole week and a crappy vacation to get over it.
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The movie itself is awkward: Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus fight in front of friends and avoid each other like they’re already divorced. The kids clearly want nothing to do with dad while he’s fighting with mom. Pete pushes his more timid son out of his comfort zone in a really hard-to-watch way: You can tell he can’t accept his son’s no-thanks attitude toward an adrenaline rush. Even worse, that plot point is never resolved.
The supporting characters are also hard to watch. The Austrian concierge, Charlotte, is very forward about her sexuality, which surely is a poke at the European stereotype, but what’s obviously intended as comedic relief is quite cringeworthy. Zach Woods, who played Gabe in “The Office,” has been typecast once again as the awkward coworker, and there’s also the aforementioned hot Italian ski instructor, Gugliemo. He’s unfortunately one-dimensional.
Also, the soundtrack is totally trying to copycat “Grand Budapest Hotel” vibes, and it’s kind of sad. I laugh at how pathetic this is. Just listen to the first ten seconds of each first track on the soundtrack, and you’ll see what I mean.
Still, I don’t regret seeing “Downhill.” It’ll get you thinking, and there are some moments of joy. If you have friends who like ski movies going to the theater with you, there are some action shots: nothing crazy, but they’re there. And if you have $10 to spare, it’s not $10 wasted.
It’s just that “Dumb and Dumber” is better, even if they’re in stupid Aspen.
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Casey Russell is the arts and entertainment editor at the Vail Daily. “Dumb and Dumber” is where she first learned about Aspen. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.