In retrospect, this ten year old film is really about the Douglas family who commissioned a vanity script loosely based on their own real-life troubles, and it's an awkward, self-deprecating, unfunny mess.
Some aspects of this compromised script clearly scream,"Vanity project!"-- the characters were written to be like the actors who play them. Real fathers and sons. Real chemical dependency, and real marital infidelity. Horrifyingly, Cameron Douglas had an arrest record for drug use before his portraying the chemically dependent son in this film, and is now in prison for meth possession. Oddly, the film appears to get weighed down with disease, bodily functions, disability and chemical dependency, not exactly breeding grounds for big laughs. Viewers squirm at the awkward mix, and wonder if this is a comedy at all.
This film was not immune to the common foibles of the typical vanity project. For example, often the actors who commission a script want to play characters much younger than they are. That makes for some logic problems. It's preposterous that a 55 year old Bernadette Peters would be the mother of anything 10 years old. And the notion that Michael Douglas at 59 would try to play the father of a 10 year old is laughably delusional. Clearly Michael Douglas had a hand in shaping the script, agreed to the role, and thought he could play 50. When 10 year old Eli comes up to Bernadette Peters and says "Mom" instead of "Grandma" it's so absurd it's like bad community theatre casting-- Peters is old enough to be his grandmother. And Kirk Douglas his great grandfather.
Kirk Douglas is indecipherable in many of his lines because of his stroke, God bless him. But in his effort to annunciate clearly, he ends up overacting, and most of his lines are shown using wide shots to help frame his stiff-handed grandiose gestures. Subtlety is out the window here, and clearly the director struggled with managing his clarity of diction.
To add insult to injury, the script piles on another disabled character to the mix, a friend of Kirk Douglas's character who is an amputee with dementia, no less. The legless, flatulent, mumbling character appears to have been added to offset Kirk Douglas's own intense disability and make Kirk look comparatively better, and to still retain the fart jokes without embarrassing him. Otherwise, no sane script writer would ever include such a character. Also, the grandmother is on kidney dialysis and the kid is suffering from adolescent angst. Oh boy.
Similar to the adding of the demented character, the script creates a son younger than the real life Cameron, presumably to offset the focus on Cameron's real life drug use.
Eventually the screen is filled with seven characters, each with a problem. Add to that a continual flow of arguments, and you have an unwatchable psychobiography.
There are so many things out of balance with this film, and in retrospect, it's a great study of vanity screenwriting, and what happens when celebrities have money to burn, and a direct line to the screenwriter-- it's a recipe for disaster.