Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Only Way To Win Is...

Phrases you don't get to say much: "I'm here to see the new Andy Griffith movie!" I like Griffith, though I never could stand to watch any of his shows. I should say, I liked him in Waitress. I thought his Obama commercial with Ron Howard was kind of cloyingly appalling.

Still, the old guy's back in the feature debut of Marc Feinberg, Play The Game. And once again his name is Joe. But unlike Waitress's Old Joe, Grandpa Joe is a nice old guy with a grandson, David, who loves him.

David (played by Paul Campbell, who normally plays a character named "Billy") is a sleazy used car salesman who is an expert at overcharging people he's oversold, and who is expert and getting ladies into bed. He's likable enough, and gave up his (weirdly low-key) dreams to buy a condo for Grandpa Joe in his time of need.

The premise of the movie is that David is teaching Joe how to "Play The Game", i.e., get the ladies. Grandpa Joe quickly lands Edna (former James Dean fianceƩ Liz Sheridan), but really has the hots for Rose (perennial sombody's mother Doris Roberts, who looks very good for 78). David coaches him through various strategies to land her.

Now, David is the main character in the movie, and it's really primarily about him becoming smitten with Julie (Marla Sokoloff, who's one of those actresses you'll probably say, "Oh! Her!") who always seems to be one step ahead of him, until he's become the victim of his own games.

Well, you can see where this is going. You don't make a RomCom about a guy who's a player and have him stay a player. Kinda cramps the Rom part, if not the Com.

What sets this movie—or this part of the movie, anyway—above most is that is there's an underlying mystery about what's going on with Julie and David. He's playing games with her, we know, because he goes over them in detail with his buddy, played by Geoffrey Owens (Elvin from "The Cosby Show") and sometimes with Grandpa Joe.

A lot of little things, though, don't quite add up. I wrongly attributed some of them to sloppy film-making (which attitude is the only one that makes it possible to be surprised by The Sixth Sense), but they're all tied together at the end Fight Club style. Stay until the credits roll, people.

We enjoyed it.

I actually liked the old folks part better than the young folks. I don't know if they're better actors, necessarily, but they seem to have a lot more character then the pretty, sort-of-generic-looking leads. There is a fair amount of old folks sex and talk about sex. We do see the 83-year-old Griffith's "Oh" face as the 80-year-old Liz Sheridan, uh... Let's just say she's out of frame for this part? We hear about it in detail later as well.

I also don't really like "the player" as a lead character, or a member of society for that matter. David is a consummate liar, positively mercenary in his approach to women, and also almost completely unperturbed about his car selling tactics. I wasn't sold on the back story for him; i.e., I didn't feel enough empathy toward him to care too much about whether he got the girl.

Then there's the question of the girl herself, and whether she's playing him. And also why and to what end. Certain things that are intellectually satisfying are not necessarily emotionally honest.

But then, I dislike game-playing.

So, you know: fun movie, don't think too hard about what it says about the main characters, or the view it takes of men-women relationships in general, and you can have a good time.

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