The Judge covers too many genres, still delivers enjoyable movie

IMG_2618By Garrett Strother
Entertainment Editor 
Every so often, (and unfortunately increasingly frequently) there comes a movie that has a kind of identity crisis; it cannot really decide what it wants to be. The Judge is one of these films. It starts out as a simple, big-fish returning to a small pond story. Robert Downey Jr, giving an excellent performance as hot shot Chicago lawyer Hank Palmer, returning to the small Indiana town where he was raised following the death of his mother. From there, he meets up with an old high school flame, and the movie takes a turn for romantic comedy. A bit odd, but still in Doc Hollywood or Cars territory, right?
But this is only a brief pit-stop on the roller coaster of genres that is The Judge. Palmer’s titular judge father, played by Robert Duvall, goes out to get some groceries, and returns with a man’s blood on the front of his car. Now Palmer must step up to help his father in the courtroom, and the movie becomes a law drama.
It would seem at this point in the movie that there would be a natural third act and the movie would end as it predictably should. Yet, even more shocking events come to light and we switch gears again into a family and a few other flavors of drama. Sprinkle in a few out of place comments about the nature of man and God and you have The Judge.
It is an enjoyable movie, with a few unexpected standout performances and touching moments. Dax Shepard delivers a tremendously out of type performance as a naive, comedically inept lawyer perfectly complements Robert Downey Jr’s smarmy comic relief. Downey Jr and Duvall also have a few touching father and son scenes that do not come in the form that they are expected to be in.
In it’s individual pieces, The Judge isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen before. But, in it’s entirety with all of its mismatched genres, it somehow comes together and becomes a weird yet satisfying story that defies the predictability that it seemed to be destined for. It is sweet, sappy, and filled with all the sassy Robert Downey Jr you could ask for. It won’t win any Oscars, but it’s well worth staying for its entire daunting run time.