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+

  • Movie
  • 126 minutes