New on DVD: ‘The Etruscan Smile’ a toothless tale

Tribune Content Agency

A fish out of water from across the pond attempts to make amends in the new DVD releases for the week of June 30.

“The Etruscan Smile”: After a dispute with his longtime rival, Scotsman Rory MacNeil (Brian Cox) collapses and is urged to stay with family and seek medical help elsewhere. Begrudgingly, he heads to San Francisco to stay with his estranged son, Ian (JJ Feild), Ian’s wife, Emily (Thora Birch), and their baby. Tensions boil as Rory takes his grandson on an afternoon sausage-eating jaunt without alerting the family, among other culture clashes, while chef Ian receives an unexpected gift from Emily’s rich but controlling father that becomes a burden. As Rory acclimates to the hilly city, his rival, his health and his relationships make predictable turns and hit all the beats of a good old-fashioned family drama.

But a 74-year-old Scottish man with a centuries-long feud isn’t the thing that makes the film feel dated. In a nostalgic turn, the sometimes quirky, always lush orchestral score by Haim Frank Ilfman gives a late-’90s movie feel to moments like Rory discovering the great American traditions of helicopter parenting, molecular gastronomy and Segway tours. More uncomfortably dated are the one-dimensional roles written for the two women characters, type-A wife/mom Emily (Thora Birch) and the initially prickly love interest Claudia (Rosanna Arquette), by screenwriters Michael McGowan, Michal Lali Kagan and Sarah Bellwood, based on the 1985 novel “The Etruscan Smile” by Jose Luis Sampedro. The cast does impressive work with the material, but something doesn’t add up with Claudia’s repulsion to Rory’s toxic masculinity quickly disappearing into being charmed by it for no discernable reason, let alone Rory’s sudden transformation to Good Dad/Grandpa without a convincing catalyst for change.

The Etruscan smile, as Claudia explains while she and Rory marvel at an ancient Italian sculpture, is one of happiness in death. It’s a shame that the film leaves more of a puzzled frown.


“Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Season 7”: The sitcom starring Andy Samberg as a cop in a New York police precinct was picked up by NBC after being canceled by Fox.

“Evil: Season One”: A psychologist, contractor and priest in training search for answers to church mysteries in this CBS drama.

“Force of Nature”: A cop attempts to evacuate a building during a hurricane while thieves plan to rob it. Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth and Mel Gibson star.

“Four Kids and It”: Kids on vacation in England encounter a magical being.

“Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears”: Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) rescues an unfairly imprisoned girl and discovers a multifaceted mystery.

“Redcon-1”: A team of soldiers must breach a quarantined area to find a scientist who could save the world from a deadly virus.

“The Sinner Season 3”: The USA Network drama’s third season follows Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) as he discovers a disturbing secret while investigating a car accident.

“The Short History of the Long Road”: A teenager (Sabrina Carpenter) is forced to examine her RV lifestyle after losing her father.


“Viena and the Fantomes”: A young woman (Dakota Fanning) crosses the country with an ’80s punk band.


“Big Dogs”: An underworld emerges out of an alternative reality of New York City in this series.


“Black Magic for White Boys”: A man sells a book of spells in a dilapidated theater. Teisha Hickman and Franck Raharinosy star.


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