The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"JUST GETTING STARTED"

TITLE

Everyone involved in the making of Just Getting Started should be charged with war crimes. Okay, that's obviously just a joke, but my gosh, what an endurance test this movie is. Writer/director Ron Shelton used to make really smart, fun pictures like Bull Durham and White Men Can't Jump. This time, he puts forth such little effort that the title may as well have been I Don't Give a S***. That's how lazy the entire affair is. Even at 91 minutes, this thing feels endless.

The movie opens with a mob wife (Jane Seymour) discovering that the attorney who put her husband behind bars is alive and living at the Villa Capri, a fancy seniors resort in Palm Springs. That man is Duke Diver (Morgan Freeman). You read that right – Duke Diver. Duke is a ladies man who has the attention of two female residents, Roberta (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Margarite (Glenne Headley). He's a big shot around the place, but his status as Alpha Male is threatened with the arrival of Leo (Tommy Lee Jones), an ex-military official also used to being the top dog. Their rivalry heats up when both find themselves attracted to a newcomer at the resort, Suzie (Rene Russo).

The first hour of Just Getting Started plays like a reheated version of Grumpy Old Men. There are continual jokes about older people having sex – as though that's the funniest thing in the world – combined with an outdated plot device involving two guys battling to see who will “win” the woman's affections. At one point, Suzie comments on how sexist that idea is. Her objection is quickly ignored, both by Leo and Duke, as well as by the film itself.

Presumably, Shelton thinks we'll laugh at such knee-slapping bits as Duke cheating on the golf course, or at the mere sight of watching Freeman and Jones competitively playing ping-pong. That's as clever as the "humor" gets. Jabs the characters trade have zero sting, and a twist about why Suzie has suddenly arrived at Villa Capri can be seen coming a mile away, completely robbing it of any comedic potential it may have had, which admittedly was minimal.

Just Getting Started really goes down the drain in the final thirty minutes, when it suddenly becomes an action movie. Does the mob wife send her goon son to kidnap Suzie so that Duke can be lured out into the open? You bet. Do Leo and Duke launch a rescue mission to save her? Of course they do. Shelton doesn't seem to understand much about shooting action sequences, though. There are way too many shots of Jones and Freeman driving around in a pickup truck, complete with some of the worst green screen effects this side of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. Once they confront the guy, the “action” is over so quickly you barely even register that it's happened. There's no attempt to build suspense or peril. By this point, the movie seems eager for itself to end, as the abrupt wrap-up suggests.

Freeman, Jones, and Russo are always watchable. Even when given nothing worthwhile to do, they're an asset. Then again, they're the only asset Just Getting Started has. It's depressing to watch three good actors forced to flounder around, desperately trying to generate laughs from material that contains no wit or comedic substance. Rarely are the skills of performers at their level so callously wasted.

Just Getting Started is a laughless comedy, an excitement-free action picture, and an unromantic love story. It achieves a trifecta of stupidity.

( out of four)


Just Getting Started is rated PG-13 for language, suggestive material, and brief violence. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.


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