‘Downhill’ reviews: Does it do ‘everything right,’ or are you better off watching the original ‘Force Majeure’?

Happy Valentine’s Day from “Downhill,” the comedy about a couple on the rocks — or on thin ice, as may be a more apt metaphor — that opened on February 14. But what do critics think of this remake of the 2014 Swedish comedy “Force Majeure“? It’s directed by Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (“The Descendants“), co-written by them and Emmy winner Jesse Armstrong (“Succession“), and stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. That’s quite a pedigree.

As of this writing the film has a MetaCritic score of 50 based on 32 reviews counted thus far: 13 positive, 18 somewhat mixed, and 1 outright negative. Over on Rotten Tomatoes it has a freshness rating of 47% based on 74 reviews, 39 of which are classified as negative. The RT critics’ consensus summarizes the reviews by saying, “Fittingly named for a remake whose charms are dwarfed by its superior source material, ‘Downhill’ is frequently — and frustratingly — less than the sum of its talented parts.”

Rotten Tomatoes only classifies reviews as positive or negative, as opposed to MetaCritic’s sliding scale from 0 to 100, so the fact that the MC score is a little higher indicates that while most critics aren’t huge fans of the film, the consensus is more ambivalent than hostile. So while the movie is being described as “too broad” and “a lot less subtle” than the Swedish original film about a husband’s cowardly reaction to an avalanche, others say it “does everything right” and that Louis-Dreyfus is “nuanced and sharply drawn” and “grounds her performance” relative to the film around her.

Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow movie fans here in our forums.

Alan Ng (Film Threat): “They’ve mastered the new-style of comedy for the 2000s. Gone are the jokes and gags of great films, like ‘Airplane,’ and every groaner comedy from the 80s and 90s. Now is the new grounded comedies, where heart is needed to connect with its audiences and once you’re grabbed in, uses comedy to flip this grounded story on its head. ‘Downhill’ does everything right”

Leah Greenblatt (Entertainment Weekly): “‘Downhill’ is a loose adaptation of a great 2014 Swedish movie called ‘Force Majeure,’ and like so many things America recasts in its own image, the storyline becomes both shinier and a lot less subtle in translation … [Louis-Dreyfus] grounds her performance in the reality of a woman suddenly realizing she might not really know the man she married.”

Kate Erbland (IndieWire): “While the duo have snagged an enviable cast, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell taking on the lead roles of a married couple on edge (and then set right over it, swept away like, well, we’ll get to that later), and a script co-written by ‘Succession’ creator Jesse Armstrong, it’s hard to ever shake the sense that everyone would be much better off just queuing up Östlund’s film and moving on.”

Sandy Schaefer (ScreenRant): “‘Downhill’ plays out more like an extension of Louis-Dreyfus’ brand of cringe comedy (a la ‘Veep’) than a chip off the same block as Ferrell’s best-known lampoons (a la ‘Anchorman’). That may explain why the former seems to be more in their element here than the latter … Louis-Dreyfus’ nuanced and sharply drawn performance, ‘Downhill’ tends to sketch its uncomfortable comedy-drama scenarios a little too broadly.”

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