Out of order

"Nobody calls me Boo Radley!"

"Nobody calls me Boo Radley!"

Rated 1.0

The prospect of Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall sharing a movie together is, in a word, awesome. So what does director David Dobkin—with Downey as producer—do with such an opportunity?

He gives us a movie so cliché-ridden that the occasional inspired moments scream out at us like a lost puppy yelping while being swarmed by rabid bats.

Downey plays Hank Palmer, one of those typical movie lawyers who gets bad guys sprung free in Chicago and pisses, literally and figuratively, on lawyers trying to put bad men in jail. Just before he gets another baddie off the hook, a call comes in from home. It turns out his mom died while tending to her flowers, so Hank is off to his hometown for the funeral. In that hometown is his lousy dad, Joseph (Duvall), the town judge and major league prick.

Wouldn’t you know it? It turns out Hank’s hometown is the absolute opposite of Chicago. It’s one of those rural, country paradises that the protagonist despises but we, the viewer, can see is a pretty darned nice place, especially if you like fishing trips, bike rides and hot bartenders who are willing to sleep with you. You just feel terrible for a guy who has to go to a place like that, right?

Hank hates his dad. Oh boy, oh boy, does he hate him. Joseph hates his son. Gee willikers, does he hate that little son of a bitch. The reasons for their mutual hatred are slowly revealed, and not a one of those reasons comes as a surprise.

Hank does the funeral, and is all ready to bolt and go deal with his newly developing divorce when he gets called back to town. Turns out dad’s Cadillac and, consequently, dad are being investigated in a possibly intentional vehicular homicide.

You know what this means? Court drama! And because it involves a son defending his dad, it’s a family court drama! And it is long. By god, at 141 freaking minutes, is it ever so horribly long.

Billy Bob Thornton plays the evil lawyer that Hank must face in court in defense of his dad. We know he is evil because he has a steel, collapsible cup that he drinks water out of, one that he snaps open and closed with a vengeance. Other cliché characters include the autistic brother who likes to film things, and the “Coulda Been Somebody!” brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) who lost a chance to be a baseball star when Hank got them into a car accident as a teen.

I would have to say the highlight of this movie is the scene where a sick Joseph shits himself in a futile attempt to make it to the toilet in time. Hank comes to his rescue, and we are treated to a scene where we not only see Robert Duvall covered in shit, but the gruesome aftermath when Hank cleans him off in the shower.

Dobkin adds a little humor to the crap shower scene, with Hank’s daughter outside the door doing a knock-knock joke. You see, it’s funny because the kid doesn’t know that behind the door is her dad and granddad standing in a shower covered with shit. That’s some major hijinks right there.

So, this is a courtroom drama involving Billy Bob Thornton and his stupid cup, a disease-of-the-week movie involving rampant shitting, a romance because Hank gets it on with an ex (Vera Farmiga) and her daughter (I won’t go into that), a fish-out-of-water dramedy, a mystery about who done run somebody over and a little bit Rain Man due to the autistic brother angle.

It’s really unbelievable that so much talent threw down for The Judge. Downey was on Howard Stern recently, where he claimed that Duvall was a bit of a holdout, and didn’t really want to make the movie. I’m guessing the opportunity to crap himself on screen and then get a nice shower from Iron Man must’ve sold him on the gig.