During a skiing holiday in the Austrian alps, the Staunton family are caught in a benign avalanche. When Pete (Will Ferrell) runs rather than stay with his family, it throws his relationship with wife Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) into question.
Is there anything particularly bad about 'Downhill'? No, but then there is nothing particularity good about it either. Looking at the reactions from its American release, it's not going to do much better here either. People who want to see a Will Ferrell comedy probably aren't too used to downbeat dramas about the grey areas of relationships. And the people that like these type of films have probably seen the original ('Force Majeure'). Ultimately it doesn't even seem that the filmmakers made it for themselves so who is it for?
The script is very bare-bones which works because it is meant to be an actors' film. Jessie Armstrong's presence is hard to detect other than his talent to make insufferable middle-class white people enjoyable enough to spend screen time with. There are some tonality problems especially since a chunk of the jokes boil down to "lol, Europeans". Miranda Otto plays a free-spirited concierge that feels like she's wandered in from an Adam Sandler film being made right around the corner.
Ferrell and Dreyfus are pitched well and certainly seem like the couple they are trying to replicate, in that there is little chemistry between them. It does take a realistic approach, which means the stakes never seem that high because you don't feel that their relationship is that interesting. Throw in their kids and you've got a family of four with the personality of milk toast. This is fine if intentional, but it is hard to tell if this satirical element is in the film on purpose.
There is plenty of fine talent on and off camera and clearly nobody has phoned in their work but it is missing an essential ingredient. This is the nature of filmmaking but if someone with chops like Sam Rockwell had been on screen or a director with real visual flair, you'd be seeing another star attached to this review. As it is, it would have been much better as the plot of a 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' episode.