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Coupe de Ville Reviews

Yet another road movie about male bonding, COUPE DE VILLE follows three brothers as they deliver the classic car of the title to Florida for their mother's birthday in 1963. The boys' father, Fred (Alan Arkin), an inventor of special fishing poles and indestructible stop signs, has instructed oldest son Marvin (Daniel Stern) to pick up the car in Detroit. There, Marvin learns that his brothers, Buddy (Arye Gross) and Bobby (Patrick Dempsey), will be making the journey south with him. It's immediately apparent that the Libner boys have little rapport. What's more, Bobby is picked up from a reform school, which has obviously made little dent in his rebellious nature. The brothers spend most of the time en route annoying one another, but during a lull in their bickering we learn that Fred is dying (cue the soft music), and that he has given instructions to deliver the car in perfect condition, which, of course, doesn't occur. When Buddy falls asleep at the wheel, the car crashes. If this isn't trouble enough, an encounter with some southern cops wipes out the boys' savings. Somehow the Libners make it to Florida, where they stop to visit Buddy's sweetheart, Tammy (Annabeth Gish), whom he's planning to marry. She, unfortunately, doesn't have the same plans, and the brothers find her with another guy--who gives Buddy a trouncing, to boot. As for fixing the car, their uncle (Joseph Bologna), a high-rolling gambler, has no cash to help them out, but gives them a hot tip on a dog race. The tip pays off, and after collecting the money, the boys find a kindly but eccentric mechanic, whom they help to magically restore the car to its original state--in what seems like only a day or two. Meanwhile, Marvin finds time to go off on his own and clobber Tammy's new boy friend. Presumably, this retribution for the thrashing of Buddy is intended to demonstrate that Marvin is really a caring, devoted brother after all. (Or maybe he just likes beating people up.) With the car fixed, the boys arrive at their parents' house, where Fred lets Marvin in on the real reason for their journey: to reunite his sons. A final voice-over then explains that Fred dies that night, secure in the knowledge that his sons have gotten back together, certain they won't forget the importance of staying close as a family. With some imagination and a spin or two on its well-worn plot, COUPE DE VILLE could have been enjoyable; instead it's depressingly familiar and, worse, unfunny. The brothers have very little of importance to say to one another, and spend so much of the film screaming and fighting that the ending is ludicrous. We're asked to believe that these three young men, who've spent practically the entire trip at odds, become close merely because of their father's admonition that they get together. Each of the brothers is little more than a stereotype: Marvin is dominating and humorless; Buddy, sensitive and lovesick; and Bobby, messed-up but basically good. To his credit, Dempsey does manage to bring some life to his Bobby, and his performance is one of the few bright spots in the movie. What is perhaps most puzzling about this "road movie" is that it spends so little time on the road: few memorable incidents occur, few interesting characters are encountered along the way, and the boys seem to reach Florida in record time (in fact, the second half of the film takes place after they have more or less reached their destination). The filmmakers' half-hearted approach to their material is evident as early as the opening sequences where the car is shown going over a series of long bridges that certainly look like they're in Florida, although the story begins in Detroit. One of the genuinely funny moments in the film is an argument about the lyrics to the 1960s rock classic "Louie Louie." Naturally, Bobby thinks the song is about sex, Buddy believes it's about dancing, and Marvin says it's a sea shanty. People have debated the nearly unintelligible lyrics of "Louie Louie" for years, but seeing the brothers revive the debate onscreen is COUPE DE VILLE's one unexpected delight. If the script had provided a few more original moments like this, COUPE DE VILLE might not have been such a formulaic, forgettable movie. (Profanity, violence, sexual situations.)