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They're sailing into uncharted waters.
I have a friend who has a three-legged dog. Every time I go over to my friend's house and see that poor little dog limping by, I feel bad for it. It's obvious that the dog is old, in pain, and just barely managing to get by, but the dog is still shuffling along tirelessly despite his handicaps. The Golden Boys is kind of like that. This is a film that limps along wearily, desperately attempting to keep from falling down as it trudges towards the finish line. It's painful to watch, but you're rooting for it anyway. The primary reason for this is the fact that the film stars three old veterans of cinema: David Carradine (Kill Bill), Rip Torn (The Man Who Fell to Earth), and Bruce Dern (The Cowboys).
They play Captain Zeb (Carradine), Captain Perez (Dern), and Captain Jerry (Torn), three old seafaring adventurers who have settled down in a small town in an attempt to make a life for themselves away from the sea. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be going so well. Try as they might, the three Captains just aren't able to keep things clean and tidy around the house. They don't have the money to hire a maid, and they are beginning to despair that they will have to commit to doing all the chores themselves. Then Captain Perez comes up with an idea: what if one of the men gets married? That way, he can have his wife do all the cooking and cleaning and allow the two others to stay on as boarders.
The Captains agree that this rather chauvinistic plan is the best idea, and it's decided that Captain Jerry should be the one to get married. They put an advertisement in the paper, and within no time at all they've received a reply from a woman named Martha (Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan). She says that she will agree to marry Captain Jerry if she finds him to be a suitable human being. So, she arrives in town and mildly goofy hijinks ensue as the courtship period begins.
The film is described as a cross between Grumpy Old Men and Three Men and a Baby on the packaging, but that's somewhat misleading. Sure, it's a silly story about cantankerous old codgers, but it replaces the wacky frenzy of those aforementioned films with a plodding sleepiness. My goodness, this film moves at a crawl. The plot doesn't so much unfold as it slowly drips out, casually dispensing one or two little plot developments at a time. This film is so tedious that, even when the town catches fire, it's difficult to stifle a yawn. Many scenes simply begin and don't know where to end, rambling on until the director decides to cut away to something different.
The actors are largely responsible for defining the tone of the film. Either they were given way too much liberty to improvise or they just don't have a good handle on the script, because they all speak in an astonishingly sluggish manner. All three leads slowly dispense the dialogue…one…word…at…a…uh…um…er…at…a…time. After a while, the viewer begins to feel a bit like John Cleese during that scene in A Fish Called Wanda in which he exasperatedly attempted to get Michael Palin to stop stuttering and simply spit the information out. These guys are all charming, but they sure aren't putting a whole lot of effort into this one. Even worse is Charles Durning, who looks unhealthy and unhappy during all of his scenes. He slurs his words incomprehensibly and is saddled with a subplot that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. However, the very worst performance comes from none other than John Savage, who seems to be doing a Danny DeVito impersonation. That works out even less successfully than you would expect it to. Mariel Hemingway is bright and charming, but that's simply not enough.
It took me about 15 minutes to realize that The Golden Boys was a period film, perhaps due to my stupidity but probably due to the fact that the period design here is very unconvincing. It looks as if they've simply taken modern people and places and tossed assorted period artifacts onto them, somehow failing to seem remotely authentic. The film's transfer is certainly solid though, offering a sharp image with surprisingly superb detail. However, I will note that I was surprised to see a handful of scratches and flecks on a brand-new film like this one. Audio is slightly bothersome due to the fact that the sea shanty-dominated score occasionally overwhelms the dialogue. Otherwise, I have no real complaints. The only extra on the disc is a theatrical trailer.
If you're like me and would consider watching this film due to your love of the actors involved, think again. This dramatically and comedically flat experience is a waste of time for everyone involved. Too bad.
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