ROBERT DE NIRO has apparently made his peace with adding "pathetic old man" to his repertoire. Everybody's Fine opens with De Niro doddering around the grocery store, asking a clueless clerk for help picking out a fancy wine—because his four adult children have promised to come home for a visit and he wants to make it special. He then spends hours constructing an expensive new barbeque, on which to grill expensive steaks... only to learn none of his kids are coming after all. On the pathetic-o-meter, this is the equivalent of an old dog with bad hips struggling to stand, almost making it up, then collapsing to the floor and pissing himself.

But De Niro pulls himself off the damp linoleum for a cross-country trip to visit each of his children in turn. Slowly, it emerges that he's been kept in the dark about his kids' lives—that, ever since his wife died, he's been protected from information that might upset him.

Which is a fine premise for a movie, really, and were this written with half the emotional intelligence of, say, You Can Count on Me, it might've made a decent family drama. But it's not. It's written as a film in which crucial plot points are revealed in dream sequences, and one in which every time you might find yourself starting to tear up, the tackiness of cheap sentiment gets in the way.