Judge Gordon Sullivan now thinks of his Golden Years as a little more golden.
If you want to win at love, you have to play the game.
We live in a world where tween pop sensations are photographed half-naked for national magazines, and, aside from a fleeting joke about Viagra or cougars, mature sexuality is at best slighted and at worst ignored. Romantic comedies tend to be no exception; most of them focus on teenagers or twentysomethings, and finding grandpa or grandma a new companion is relegated to an afterthought, a sentimental subplot. Not so with Play the Game, a romantic comedy that isn't afraid to show octegenarian romance in full bloom alongside a more conventional love story. The frank depiction of mature sex and romance might not be to everyone's taste, but Play the Game offers a clever premise and heartwarming performances to those who can deal with senior citizens kissing.
Play the Game is about a grandson/grandfather pairing of David (Paul Campbell, 88 Minutes) and Joe (Andy Griffith, Matlock). Joe was more like a father to David, although they had a falling out that kept them apart for years after Joe took a job with his father (Clint Howard, Ice Cream Man) selling cars to pay for Joe's retirement community condo. Now they're back together again and David is giving Joe advice on how to get women since Grandpa Joe has been feeling a little lonely lately. David seems like the perfect person to be giving advice: he's a capital P player who knows how to woo women with style. The problem is that while giving his grandpa advice, David finds Julie (Marla Sokoloff, Dude, Where's My Car?), the woman of his dreams, but she's immune to his charms.
Play the Game starts out with a cute and clever premise. The idea of a young bachelor teaching his widower grandfather about picking up women provides loads of comedic potential. It is inevitable, of course, that the teacher will become the student and Grandpa Joe's 84-year-old insights will help the young David out as well. Before the final role reversal, though, there're plenty of opportunities for funny scenes, like watching David charm his way into a lady's affections or Joe's first night of sex in years. Individual comic moments are less important than the film's overall mood, however. This is a gentle, warm film about balancing sex and romance in an adult way.
Which sounds a bit boring, now that I think about it, and in other hands, it might be. Luckily director Marc Fienberg has assembled a top-notch cast to present this romantic comedy. Paul Campbell has the good looks and charm to be believable as the smarmy David of the film's start, and his slow transformation into a caring human being is fun to watch. Marla Sokoloff is bright and bubbly as his love interest, and her more dramatic moments are impressive. Andy Griffith as Joe was an inspired choice. Not only does Griffith have the comic timing, range of expression, and necessary age, but he's got years of associations for the audience. This is Andy Griffith, the guy who played Matlock, making out with the woman who played Seinfeld's mom. Liz Sheridan is an excellent choice for Griffith's love interest, as is Doris Roberts.
Play the Game gets a solid technical presentation on DVD. There's nothing in particular to distinguish the transfers. It's pretty bright, with solid colors and no obviously flaws. The surround audio spends most of the time in the front speakers, but dialogue is clear and well-mixed. Extras include a few deleted scenes and some humorous outtakes along with the film's trailer.
Play the Game isn't likely to appeal to everyone. Those used to more raunchy sex-related comedies, especially those of the Apatow-crowd will find that the film isn't as explicit as it could be. On the other side, those who are feeling prudish, especially about senior citizen sex, will find that Play the Game goes into more detail than you'd care for. The film struck a fine balance between candor and good taste, but I can see how committing more to one side or the other might have benefitted the film. At 105 minutes, the film is also a bit long. It could easily stand to lose about 10 minutes of material, especially out of some of the montages that dot the film.
For those willing to stray a little outside the mainstream, B>Play the Game offers a cute take on the romantic comedy tradition. With solid performances and a heartwarming message about growing up, the film is worth seeking out.
Play the Game wins. Not guilty.
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