I was never bored by “Play the Game.” Annoyed, yes, but never bored. A lot of that has to do with the talent and charm oozed by Andy Griffith, Liz Sheridan and Doris Roberts. They’re most certainly oldies, but they’re still very much goodies in my book, frequently calling on their vast skills to overcome the sexist and ageist underpinnings of a story that undoubtedly means well even though it never plays well.
I just spied Andy Taylor poppin’ Viagra and boppin’ Mrs. Seinfeld in “Play the Game,” and all I can say is pray the folks back in Mayberry don’t find out.
Just think what it would do to poor Aunt Bee and Floyd the Barber to witness Andy naked and fornicating under the influence of “a little blue pill.” Their weak hearts couldn’t stand the shock. And what about Goober and Gomer? Shazam! And, oh my God, little Opie? “Gee, Pa!”
Most of all, what about me? Andy was one of the few beacons of decency in my entire life. The only thing worse would be to discover Ward Cleaver in the sack with Mrs. Costanza.
In a way, though, I must admire the moxie and guts of an iconic man of 84 dropping his drawers and exposing us, literally, to a phenomenon that’s been sweeping the nation: senior sex. And no, by “senior,” I don’t mean high schoolers, although I doubt many of them could match Andy Griffith’s prowess in “Playing the Game.”
It wasn’t always that way for his Grandpa Joe, a recently widowed gent longing to become a “chick maggot” at the nursing home where he resides with former sitcom stars Liz Sheridan (aka Mrs. Seinfeld) and Doris Roberts (aka Mrs. Barone from “Everybody Loves Raymond”).
So Gramps turns to his 28-year-old grandson, David (Doogie Howser look-alike Paul Campbell), for tips on how to become a player.
It’s writer-director Marc Fienberg’s intent to get us to question who’s teaching whom on their Metamucil-fueled bootie calls in which Gramps’ favorite pickup line has something to do with hemorrhoids and how many Gs your arse pulls when you sit down. (Hey, guys, give that one a try next time you’re out crusin’ for chicks.)
What you question more is whether or not Fienberg has lost his mind, as he frequently indulges his fixation on octogenarians doing the nasty.
The joke, if you want to call it that, is that while Gramps is getting lucky, the kid keeps striking out with the alleged girl of his dreams, played adorably by Marla Sokoloff, formerly of “The Practice.”
Filling out this battle of the former network stars is Clint (brother of Ron) Howard (“Gentle Ben”) as Joe’s estranged son and David’s unfeeling father, who also conveniently serves as the kid’s boss at the car dealership where David – eschewing political correctness – proclaims he can “sell ice cubes to an Eskimo.”
Where is this all leading beyond Griffith’s seat-squirming sex scene? Hate to say it, but exactly where you expect, as Fienberg lavishes his movie with rom-com clichés and a “big twist” that everyone can see coming about 75 minutes before it’s finally revealed.
Fienberg also is big on coincidences, always a cheap and lazy storytelling device, and contrivances, which are great for escaping the corners he repeatedly paints himself into. And don’t get me started on his anachronistic dialogue, which has Gramps waxing poetic about Hollywood before “talkies.” What is he, 84 or 110?
Yet, I must admit I was never bored by “Play the Game.” Annoyed, yes, but never bored. A lot of that has to do with the talent and charm oozed by Griffith, Sheridan and Roberts. They’re most certainly oldies, but they’re still very much goodies in my book, frequently calling on their vast skills to overcome the sexist and ageist underpinnings of a story that undoubtedly means well even though it never plays well.
At least it doesn’t on the big screen. It’s much better suited to the small one, which is exactly where a trifle like “Play the Game” belongs.
The Patriot Ledger
PLAY THE GAME (PG-13 for sexual content and language.) Cast includes Andy Griffith, Paul Campbell, Liz Sheridan, Marla Sokoloff and Doris Roberts. Written and directed by Marc Fienberg. At Kendall Square, Cambridge. 2 stars out of 4.