Review: The Judge
To have a massive, innocuous diversion of a drama in which the lead character is basically a facsimile of the actor playing him is entirely acceptable. The Judge isn’t bad; it’s just a bloated, star-studded Hollywood production that looks to elicit a gamut of emotions, from whimsy to intrigue to sadness and hope. And with all these fighting for time and a plethora of characters and back stories thrown in, everything just comes out as mediocre.
Robert Downey Jr. is a smooth-talking criminal defense lawyer, that sort of amoral rich, well-manicured bamboozler that would be reprehensible was it not for the charm of Downey Jr. himself. When his mother dies, he heads from the big city and his big house and his attractive wife (maybe soon to be ex-wife) to the farmlands of Indiana to reunite with his estranged father and two brothers with whom he hasn’t been the most pleasant either.
At the opposite end of the metaphorical and legal spectrum is Mr. Palmer- err, Judge Palmer. Played by Robert Duvall, the Judge is a paragon of small town justice, a fixture of the community, and a man none too thrilled with his son for reasons yet unknown but entirely predictable.
One night this aged moral arbiter gets into an accident, and that sets forth a series of judicial and familial events that brings people together, tears people apart, and brings them together again.
Certainly the presence of a roster of captivating actors makes up for a crowded, lengthy story. Vera Farmiga plays an old flame, and while her tangent is the funnies of the film, it’s also completely unnecessary save for the fact that without her this is entirely a man’s movie.
The Judge is a triumph of mediocrity, a polished, impeccably-made, well-acted distraction of a mainstream film that throws a lot of different tones and ideas at the screen. It’s the typical ‘going back home,’ story mixed in with some legal drama and humour and a bunch of other stuff that distracts and distorts. In spite of that, it’s not without plenty of worthy moments that will entertain for its running time and then soon be forgotten.