Lawrence O'Toole
May 17, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Avalon

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG
runtime
126 minutes
performer
Armin Mueller-Stahl, Aidan Quinn, Eve Gordon, Lou Jacobi, Elizabeth Perkins, Joan Plowright, Kevin Pollak, Elijah Wood
director
Barry Levinson
distributor
RCA/Columbia Home Video
author
Barry Levinson
genre
Drama, Romance

We gave it a D+

Somehow, Avalon looks like it is home at last on video. But it’s hardly a happy return. The characters are TV-movie clichés, the dreamy cinematography makes the whole movie look like a fabric softener commercial, and Randy Newman’s score is one of those tinkly and touching things that seems best matched to images of retirees eating fast food. In chronicling his family’s life — the arrival of the patriarch (Armin Mueller-Stahl) to America on the Fourth of July, the success of his son (Aidan Quinn), the family’s move to suburbia, the destructive effects of television — director Barry Levinson ultimately succumbs to excessive sentimentality.

The movie is the visual equivalent of a stranger picking out highlights from his family album and providing brief descriptions of them. Everything that happens in Avalon, be it happiness or trauma, is infused with the same tone. The result is test-pattern emotion; everything’s on the same level. There’s no discrimination and, hence, no drama. Levinson is, to use current parlance, ”having his feelings.” If only he were having his brains. D+

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