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'Around the Bend': Cliches at Every Turn

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2004; Page WE34

This enervated indie (well, studio-financed indie; it's distributed by Warner Bros.' Independent Pictures) asks you 1) to contemplate the notion of Christopher Walken as Michael Caine's son, and 2) to follow a hackneyed road movie in the picturesque Southwest.

On his last legs, aging archaeologist Henry Lair (Michael Caine) summons his 30-year-old grandson, Jason (Josh Lucas), and Jason's 6-year-old son, Zach (Jonah Bobo), to honor his last wishes. He also invites Jason's estranged father, Turner (Walken), a former heroin user who hasn't been heard from in years. Henry wants the men to take his ashes on a sentimental last journey to various Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants where the old man experienced significant events. By the time they reach Albuquerque, Henry clearly hopes, his dysfunctional family will be emotionally reunited. This is clear from the beginning and, apart from predictable bickering and bitterness between Turner and Jason, we have no particular reason to assume anything surprising will happen. And we can expect all manner of Life Lessons and at least one Tortured Confession along the way.

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First-time filmmaker Jordan Roberts worked on this project for years, but merely ended up with dreary cliche. It's time for him to take a new journey, bound this time for originality.

AROUND THE BEND (R, 85 minutes) --Contains obscenity. At Landmark's Bethesda Row and Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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