Morgan Freeman is to geriatric group comedies as Liam Neeson is to offspring-rescuing action movies. Which is to say, they’re the goddamn masters of each.
Look at Freeman’s AARP-centric recent work: The Bucket List, The Maiden Heist, Last Vegas, 5 Flights Up, Going in Style, and now: Just Getting Started.
As Going in Style joyously forced me to write earlier this year, I worship at the altar of these broader than broad, borderline objectively terrible, yet soul-fulfilling, sitcom-esque romps. The stereotypical characterizations basically call for a laugh-track, which would nicely accompany the characters persistently laughing at each other’s unfunny jokes. Yeah, it’s one of THOSE movies, the type concerned with nothing deeper than hallmark self-help life platitudes. Speaking of which, it employs Nancy Meyers’ hallmark aesthetic, depicting just as privileged of lifestyles but without her observational humanity. And unlike her deft directorial hand, Just Getting Started’s helmer Ron Shelton’s visual touch is akin to, say, that of a robot.
And yet, I always enjoy just sitting back and watching legends thrust into utterly farcical plots full of slapstick set pieces. When I’m in the mood to shut off my brain and just mindlessly watch harmless images flicker in front of my eyes, these sorts flicks are usually my go-to, a testament to their repeat watchability. The casts just tend to make the viewing experiences never less than charmingly entertaining.
In fact, the relative strength of each’s ensemble basically determines their respective quality. Unfortunately, compared to the others listed above, Just Getting Started kind of lacks.
Freeman – the Laurence Olivier of this perfectly un-self-aware nonsense – of course comes off best, largely because the role’s a slight departure from his usual tepidly soulful voiceover performance style. He’s asked here to play a person that’s more vivacious than his natural persona, and it’s nice to see some life in those customarily old bones.
Tommy Lee Jones — oh yeah, Tommy Lee Jones — plays it straighter, and dryer, which is not to say there’s much subtly dry humor to speak of. But c’mon! It’s Tommy Lee Jones!
Rene Russo — oh yeah, Rene Russo — also plays it straighter, and dryer, which is not to say there’s much subtly dry humor to speak of. But c’mon! It’s Rene Russo!
Sorry, am I repeating myself? Blame it on the movie, which equally under-utilizes so many of its inspired supporting players of a certain age. If it hadn’t wasted the likes of Jane Seymour, Elizabeth Ashley (!), George Wallace (who makes the most of his one-liner punchlines), Joe Pantoliano, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Glenne Headly, Just Getting Started may have scaled the low-altitude heights of others of its ilk.
Even so, the cast squeezes every last yuck out of often yucky material. And sometimes, my cinematic appetite just calls for guiltily consuming yuck; it tastes oh so good in the moment.