In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_6svpck54r9k0mz9xcfzswrxcin

Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

Thumb_oax1ohn3ltgrf3vlh5ff28w0yjn

Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

That Old Feeling

  |  

Remember those little Scotty dogs kids used to play with? They were glued to magnets. If you pointed them one way, they jumped toward each other, and if you pointed them the opposite way, they jumped apart. Carl Reiner's "That Old Feeling'' is an entire movie based on the dance of the Scotty dogs, and the characters in it act as mechanically as if they had big magnets strapped to their thighs.

The premise: A senator's son (Jamie Denton) gets engaged to the daughter (Paula Marshall) of a movie star and a journalist. He wants a big marriage. Her parents have been divorced for 15 years, and both have remarried. He insists on inviting everyone. She warns against it: "My parents hate each other with a nuclear capacity.'' She is right. In no time at all her parents (Bette Midler and Dennis Farina) are insulting each other on the dance floor ("I could have had the entire Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!'' Bette shouts. "I turned down a Beatle for you!'') This is of course painful to Farina's current wife (Gail O'Grady) and Midler's husband (David Rasche). But it's not nearly as disturbing as when the fighting couple suddenly fall into each other's arms.

OK. So now we have Farina and Midler fighting and loving and fighting and loving. The wheezy screenplay by Leslie Dixon and Bonnie Bruckheimer now works out the other combinations with almost mathematical precision. First it must be established that the young groom is a prig. Then the plot must contrive to lock the bride into a hotel room with a paparazzi (Danny Nucci) who has been following her movie star mother. Then Farina's wife must get drunk with the groom, with predictable consequences.

And so on. There is not a moment that is believable, but of course the movie is not intended as realism. It is intended as comedy. So consider this "funny'' scene: Marshall and Nucci, locked in the hotel room, try to attract attention by dropping fruit from a balcony. Cops see them, but nod indulgently and walk on. Jeez. So the two continue to drop fruit, finally dropping a whole lot of fruit. End of scene, with a whole lot of fruit on the sidewalk. At least when David Letterman was dropping watermelons off buildings he showed them hitting the sidewalk in slow motion.

What's in slow motion here is the progress of the plot. Every development is exhausting because we have arrived at it long, long before the characters. There are only two saving graces. One is that Bette Midler sings "Somewhere Along the Way'' to Farina in a piano bar, very nicely. The other is that Rasche has some funny dialogue. He is a self-help counselor with smarmy little slogans at his command: "It is important to dialogue and to language each other,'' he says. He recommends "emotional valet parking'' and says to Farina's wife: "Is any part of your body original? You are so at odds with your shadow self.'' I liked his dialogue because it was smart and satirical. I liked the two young actors--Denton and Marshall--because they were fresh and appealing. Hell, I liked Farina and Midler, too. I liked everyone: O'Grady, Nucci . . . make a list. They all seemed way too nice to have done anything to deserve this screenplay.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

The Ten Best Films of 2014

The ten best films of 2014, as chosen by the film critics of RogerEbert.com.

10 Underrated Female Performances of 2014

Ten underrated female performances from 2014 worthy of Oscar consideration.

More on That Later: The Truth About “Serial”

Some thoughts on the hit podcast "Serial".

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus