Blogs » FLIX! » Review: The Discoverers (2014) Griffin Dunne shines in this funny and heartwarming film

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THE DISCOVERERS (2014) Griffin Dunne, Madeleine Martin, Stuart Margolin, Cara Buono, Devon Graye, Dreama Walker, David Rasche, John C. McGinley, Becky Ann Baker, Ann Dowd. Directed by Justin Schwarz

Recently I spoke with Griffin Dunne about his new film "The Discoverers." I asked him what it was like working with first time writer/director Justin Schwarz after working with such greats as Martin Scorsese, John Landis, Robert Redford, Sidney Lumet, and Luc Besson. He said it was a gamble because you just don't know how a film is going to turn out, but he believed in the script and the gamble paid off for Dunne who is very proud of this funny and heartfelt film.

Dunne plays history professor Lewis Birch whose career is in a downturn. He's barely hanging on to his job at a non accredited community college in Chicago and a book he's written about explorers Lewis & Clark has been rejected by every publisher except one who will print the tome if it's edited down from 6000 pages to 500. Lewis picks up his moody teenage kids, Zoe (Madeleine Martin "Californication") and Jack (Devon Graye "American Horror Story") and heads to Portland for a conference to pitch his book but gets sidetracked by news about his mother so he ends up in Idaho were he finds his mom deceased and his estranged father Stanley (Stuart Margolin) in a catatonic state. This is also the weekend that Stanley takes part in the annual Lewis & Clark reenactment trek so Lewis decides to grab the kids and head into the woods to keep an eye on his unstable dad. Once there, the family must surrender all modern technology (cell phones) and change into period clothing to reenact the 1804 expedition. There are some funny moments as the historically obsessed Stanley interacts with his less than enthused son and grandkids and some warmhearted scenes as Lewis tries to reconnect with his withdrawn father.

Griffin Dunne's career has spanned over 40 years and he shines as the patriarch of this dysfunctional family, it's great to see him back in a lead role. Madeleine Martin as the wise cracking vegan daughter Zoe also standouts in the film and the two help create this father-daughter bond that feels authentic and earnest. Much like Lewis & Clark in the 19th century, the Birch family is on a road to discovery as they rediscover each other in the 21st.

(3 1/2 stars)

Opens May 16th in New York and May 30th in Los Angeles