Accidents do happen. In the case of the Conway family, accidents come in only one category: horrific. After witnessing the unfortunate flaming death of his next door neighbor as a child, and then causing the car wreck that killed his little sister and paralyzed his brother, Billy Conway has had an extremely tough life. A life we wouldn't wish on anyone. Billy just can't seem to shake the accidents that happen whenever he's around.
After the fateful car accident, Billy's family is torn apart. His mother (Geena Davis) and his father, once happily married, are now strained by the fact that their daughter is dead and their other son is a vegetable. Seems the accident Billy caused has not only killed and maimed his family members, but it's torn apart the loving fabric that was holding them all together.
'Accidents Happen' lets us ride along as Billy grows older and his family grows further and further apart. Young Harrison Gilbertson, who plays Billy, is a fine actor and can emote with the best of them. Geena Davis on the other hand single-handedly drags this movie down with her wooden performance as his wise-cracking mom.
The movie begins with the horrific scene of an elderly gentleman running across the Conway's lawn on fire as tiny Billy watches the man burn to death in slow motion. Needless to say, it's enough to grab your attention, but too bad the rest of the movie fails to keep it. After the death of the neighbor, and the tragic car wreck, 'Accidents Happen' meanders down a road of such melodramatic melancholy that at times it's hard to take it seriously. It's almost as if director Andrew Lancaster throws in one tear-filled scene after another saying, "Look, these people are sad! They are really, really sad! Can't you tell?"
Lancaster also has a lot of trouble balancing the humorous with the serious. With the deathly serious beginning, the middle seems almost like a different film due to its misplaced humor.
Watching 'Accidents Happen,' it's easy to get the feeling that there's a much better, more poignant story lying within this movie. Trying it's hardest to escape. Sadly, Lancaster can't really find that more engaging and worthwhile film. Instead his movie about a dreadfully unlucky family comes across as mean-spirited. The title and narration of the film would make us believe that we're supposed to feel sorry for the Conway family because of their incurable bad luck. This is no reason to care for a family. How about we take the same family and think of them as good people that have had some bad things happen to them? That would make more sense, and be much more palatable. As it is, 'Accidents Happen,' is a hodge-podge film of off-putting drama and humor that just doesn't fit with the situation. Plus, Geena Davis is just really, really bad in it.
'Accidents Happen' sports a 1080p transfer courtesy of Image Entertainment. The movie was filmed on HD cameras, so it has a very clean look to it. Some of the slow motion shots are surprisingly awesome to look at. The opening shot, with the flaming neighbor running to the swirling sprinkler that's spitting out droplets of water looks really cool. While the intense slow-mo scenes feel out of character for a film like this, in regards to the video aspect they look great in HD. Think of the opening credits of 'Zombieland.' They look that good. Black levels deliver a tad bit of crushing during some darker scenes while Billy and his friend are walking around outside at night. Even though the entire movie was filmed with HD cameras, a thin layer of filmic grain has been applied after the fact to give the movie a film-like look. Fine detail in textures, clothing, and faces comes through with nice clarity, while wider shots of neighborhoods are a bit on the softer side. 'Accidents Happen' looks good considering its low budget and the fact that in was never planned to become a big release.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio included with 'Accidents Happen' is a front-heavy mix with clear dialogue, but it lacks lively surrounds to give us an engaging listening experience. LFE is an infrequent visitor during this presentation, only really rumbling to life when a bowling ball takes a roll down a neighborhood street, and even then the sound effect sounds much too forced and unnatural to actually be a bowling ball rolling down an asphalt roadway. Surround activity is uneventful, except during a couple of scenes that show a little promise, like the car wreck, a baseball game, and a bingo hall filled with ragin', gambling-mad senior-citizens. Even though the surrounds show promise, that doesn't mean they deliver. When the ambient sound should be engulfing us, it teases us instead with soft, muted rumblings. Again, dialog, which is first and foremost here, is clean and clear. Everything else leaves much to be desired.
Maybe the accident was hiring Geena Davis in the first place. Man, she's bad in this. Anyway, 'Accidents Happen' is a melodramatic mess. It flounders about like a fish out of water for a good 90 minutes before it decides, "Hey, maybe we should tie all this up." 'Accidents Happen' feels like a wasted opportunity. Something that could have worked better in the hands of more skilled actors and filmmakers. The video looks fine, the audio has clear dialog (and that's about it), and the features contain some sort of cryptic Deleted Scenes section with scenes that have yet to actually be deletedfrom the film. As much as I want to say rent it, just so you can see a Deleted Scene section without one actual deleted scene, I have to say skip it.