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Marcello Mastroianni is delightful in a change-of-pace character part in "Everybody's Fine." Wearing thick glasses, a white mustache and donning an air of unceasing optimism, he is 74-year-old Matteo Scuro, a retired father and grandfather who carries on lengthy conversations with his deceased wife.

As the film opens, Matteo is preparing for a summer vacation visit from his five children. But, at the last minute, they all beg off; they're too busy this year. So, Mat-teo travels to them, hoping to pay each a surprise visit and maybe assess their accomplishments in the process.Matteo still sees his children as youngsters, each with a world of possibilities at their fingertips. In reality, however, all of his grown sons and daughters harbor dark secrets, which they labor diligently to keep from their father. They want him to be happy in his blissful ignorance.

In reality, of course, they are breaking his heart. It's bad enough they have problems, but they lie about them as well.

"Everybody's Fine" is peppered with humor and odd cinematic moments (whenever his oldest son's answering machine comes on the phone, crowds in the plaza freeze until the call is over, symbolic of a secret revealed late in the film). And, like the title, the film as a whole is meant to be ironic and sentimental. Well, it is certainly sentimental, but the irony is too heavy-handed and obvious.

Further, Matteo is the film's only sympathetic character, stacking the deck in his favor. With an actor as talented as Mastroianni in the role, that really isn't necessary, and the film often bogs down with everyone else becoming tiresome in their deceit.

Mastroianni is a joy to watch and foreign-film fans will certainly want to savor his performance. But because this film is written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who gave us the superbly crafted "Cinema Paradiso," they will likely expect much more.

"Everybody's Fine" is not rated but is probably within PG-13 boundaries for scenes of nudity (female models changing clothes), a few profanities and a scene of violence in a subway.