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ROBERT DOWNEY JR & ROBERT DUVALL IN THE JUDGE

2014 rating: **1/2
The title character in THE JUDGE is accused of murder – he’s also dying of cancer, just lost his wife, has memory lapses, killed a man, and may go to prison… And this is considered a “comedy/drama” for one reason…

Robert Downey Jr., who can make any situation funny, plays small town Judge Palmer’s estranged big city lawyer son, Hank, who has a way of rolling his eyes even when they’re closed tight, causing audiences to, from the very start, delve into his wily and sarcastic persona, which can be good and bad: The good is that Downey's likable enough to root for, as usual. The bad is, with such contagiously built-in charm, there lacks the necessary development to make him someone we know from the inside/out: crucial in a character-driven film exceeding two hours.

The accusation is simple enough: the Judge, driving in a rainstorm, killed a man on a bike. It turns out the victim, years earlier, had practically ruined his reputation... Making it a first-degree murder charge. Eventually, Downey’s Hank defends his father in an involving case within a dark courtroom – the problem is we hardly spend time there at all. After a while, even Downey’s blunt humor can’t save THE JUDGE from wallowing in contrived sentimentality. Bland family members and a weak love interest seem tacked-on and cliché, more befitting a cable melodrama than a motion picture with two potential heavyweights.

Thankfully, any scenes between father and son are worth the price of a ticket… Downey stretching beyond IRON MAN, and the legendary Duvall stepping back up to the plate, is a double-whammy for cinema buffs – and they’re pretty good together, for the most part… If only the Bobs didn't have so many mundane distractions.
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