Parenthood

The first ten minutes of this comedy about families is terrific, but after that it's hit-and-miss peppered with very funny one-liners. Probably only Robert Altman has the narrative grip to keep such a mosaic moving, and several stories here merely take up space. Steve Martin's manically over-conscientious dad steals the film, whether chewing the pitch as his small son fumbles at baseball, or entertaining a kids' party as an unconvincing cowboy. All this is in reaction against his own dad (Robards), who neglected him in favour of ever-feckless Hulce. Divorcee Wiest's fruity teenage offspring (Plimpton and Phoenix) barely communicate with her, except to hurl insults about her vibrator, while Rick Moranis' toddler is force-fed a flash-card education in Kafka and karate. At bottom, it's squashy old Dodie Smith's Dear Octupus with a top dressing of hard, smart-ass gags - very much the American TV sitcom formula. But if it's all a bit of a cop-out, there's enough to chortle at, and Martin at least is bang on.

Release details

Duration: 124 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Ron Howard
Screenwriter: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
Cast: Steve Martin
Mary Steenburgen
Dianne Wiest
Jason Robards
Rick Moranis
Tom Hulce
Martha Plimpton
Keanu Reeves
Harley Kozak
Dennis Dugan
Leaf Phoenix