Downhill

Ok, so this isn’t in the class, even near the class, of Force Majeure, the superb 2014 Swedish film by Ruben Ostlund on which it is based. That’s the best skiing film ever.

But this is actually quite smart for a mainstream American comedy, with script help from the vicious wit of Jesse Armstrong and the touch of The Descendants writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Will Ferrell hasn’t the chops for the serious examination of marital crisis and masculinity needed here, but that’s fine because his face is quite funny as he attempts to deal with his own shortcomings and it allows Julia Louis-Dreyfus to shine in the role of the wife digesting the cracks and crevasses in her marriage after her husband runs away from her and the kids in the face of an oncoming avalanche.

We really don’t see enough of her on the big screen and some of her timing and delivery here is exquisite – the way she brings herself to say the word “soup” at one point is just genius – and it’s her film. I could have done without the over the top Miranda Otto as the breezy, sex-obsessed Austrian, and without the disappointingly obvious gags about Europe from fish-out-of-water Americans.

But there’s a pleasing awkwardness here, inherited from the original, and some smart observations about relationships. And ski boots.