The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Play the Game

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Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Play the Game

It’s not a sport that the title refers to, but love, which might be classified as a sport after all. That is, if you’re a commitment-phobe car dealer and player who has a five-step plan full of ruses to lure some unsuspecting female prey into your lair.

That would be David (Paul Campbell), a cocky, smirk-infected young man who works at his equally obnoxious father’s car dealership. Daddy Dick (Clint Howard) has dollar signs for eyes and approves of his son only because he can move cars with an elaborate name dropping pretense that gets customers to sign quickly, thinking they’ve scored an exclusive deal.

Dick is ruthless and greedy, and David looks to be a chip off the old block until realization sets in – you know. Gee I’m not like him and I don’t wanna be. And we know it way before he does.

Long before this inevitable realization happens, David visits his lonely, widowed Grandpa Joe (Andy Griffith) in a retirement home and attempts to educate him in modern world relationship tactics, which entails playing a deceitful game of emotional roulette.

Grandpa Joe protests at first, then becomes a willing participant (after a few false starts) with Edna (Liz Sheridan) who slips him a Viagra mickey for a wild night during which he discovers that his organ can still play a tune or two. He really has his eye on Rose (Doris Roberts), but she is always in the company of her cantankerous boyfriend Mervin (Rance Howard).

Meanwhile, David is following his own advice with Julie (Marla Sokoloff) a woman who proves to be trickier to ensnare than he’s planned. He’s hooked, first on the challenge, and then on the notion that this girl may be The One True Love that he’s usually been immune to in his previous dealings with the opposite sex. Let the games begin.

There are so many extreme close-ups on Julie’s face, I wanted to move the camera aside myself. We get it already. She’s cute. She’s the one. David should stick with her. No visual force-feeding necessary. Julie and David’s attempt at cat-and mouse romance is the staler of the two tales.

Of much more interest is the senior side of the sexual revolution. Grandpa Joe becomes a retirement home Romeo. He espouses David’s wanton ways, just as David decides that he wants to settle down with Julie. Like you couldn’t see that coming a hundred yards off without binoculars.

Despite the detour into the relatively uncharted territory of octogenarian sex, Play the Game relies heavily on stereotypes. The humor here is broad in every sense of the word. Grandpa Joe goes to a lounge and puts Metamucil into his drink. His belt is worn so high it approaches his ribcage. He’s never heard the term “chick magnet” and so believes it to be “maggot.” This guy is old and out of it; the film will not let us forget.

David is a classic young womanizer, full of himself, smarmy beyond his years and seemingly devoid of a conscience. Julie has a shot of being refreshingly original, but even that will be squashed out of her by film’s end.

Andy Griffith is the draw here, adorable throughout the ignoble antics he’s made to endure. Paul Campbell pulls off his slimy character’s persona so well, it’s hard to believe it’s possible for him to have a change of heart. Marla Sokoloff has a lot of face time and not much else. Doris Roberts and Liz Sheridan don’t have enough face time, but both are welcome female role models for geriatric sexpots.

Rance and Clint Howard (father and brother of Academy Award winner Ron) are nostalgic throwbacks to the “Opie” era of Griffith’s life, but little else.

Director Marc Fienberg’s debut feature – he wrote it, too – tries to break the mold from which seemingly all romantic comedies spring, but then suddenly reinforces it with predictable meet-cutes and sure-fire jokes. 80 year old oral sex? Enough said.

There are some surprises and a slight twist at the end that serves to unravel the movie’s predominant message: love good – games bad. We are left wondering what the point of the film is supposed to be, and why it discredits its entire premise in the last few minutes.

Feeling like the only honest kid in a roomful of cheaters, I decided this game is one I’d like to quit more than play.


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