It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Coupe de Ville" has a good heart and some nice moments, and would no doubt mean something to that hypothetical viewer who has never seen a movie like this before. But spare me. There is something deadening about the kind of formula picture where you know with absolute certainty what is going to happen, and how, and why. And "Coupe de Ville" is composed of so many formulas that they must have a template for it in screenwriting school.
This is a movie about how three brothers pick up a classic old car and drive it cross-country from Detroit to Florida, so they can deliver it to their dad, who is living in retirement and wants it as a surprise present for his wife. The car is a 1954 Cadillac, but never mind; any old car will do for a cross-country odyssey of self-discovery, as they proved with the Buick in "Rainman" and the pink Cadillac in the movie of the same name, and as they will no doubt also prove in the forthcoming movie "Ford Fairlane." When I see an old car at the center of a movie, warning signals go up. What does the car mean, and to whom? Usually it means that the filmmakers are eager to add instant nostalgia to their film, to lend it the psychic weight of an old car so that the journey can take on mythic proportions. The new cars get better mileage but, let's face it, there is something diminishing about the notion of driving cross-country on an odyssey of self-discovery in an Escort.
The movie's opening scenes show the three Libner brothers in the 1950s, at earlier ages. Already they're fighting all the time: Marvin (Daniel Stern), the oldest, a would-be disciplinarian; Buddy (Ayre Gross), in the middle, the dreamer and clown, and Bobby (Patrick Dempsey), the youngest, the rebel. Then we flash forward to 1963.
Marvin has just been discharged from the Air Force and has returned home to pick up a 1954 Coupe de Ville and deliver it to Florida. His father (Alan Arkin) anxiously barks instructions into the phone - he wants the car to arrive without a scratch on it. And then it gradually develops that all three brothers will be going along on the trip.