Griffith's still got 'Game'



Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, February 27, 2009

It's a darned shame that virtually no romantic comedies are targeted at senior citizens, and it would be doubly shameful if Play the Game were the last and only time audiences got to see national treasure Andy Griffith get his flirt on.

Whenever Griffith, as a senior Lothario named Joe, waxes fondly about his romancing of the ladies at his retirement community, or about the wonders of certain little blue pharmaceuticals, the years peel from that gloriously wrinkled face and you can see clearly the winking, energetic eyes of a young sheriff from Mayberry.


And he's pretty cute, too.

Griffith's performance as randy Grandpa Joe is far and away the highlight, but far from the only charm, of Play the Game, director Marc Fienberg's comedy about the risks, joys and, sometimes, naughty little thrills to be found along the road to love.

It's far from perfect: The start is slow and weirdly generic, and for most of the film, the piece's younger couple (Paul Campbell and Marla Sokoloff) aren't nearly as interesting as Griffith and the ladies (Doris Roberts and Liz Sheridan) he's smooth-talking.

But things solidify joyfully every time Joe's on screen, which, thankfully, is a lot. We meet him as a despairing widower neglected by his selfish 20-something grandson David (Campbell), a slightly sleazy car salesman and ladies' man who bought Joe a place in the retirement community so he wouldn't have to deal with him.

But the two start to connect when David takes Joe, along with his long-suffering married friend Rob (Geoffrey Owens), to be his wingman at a club while he trolls for bimbos. This provides one of the film's best scenes, when Joe, misunderstanding Rob and David's horror at him spooning Metamucil into a cup of hot water at the club, helpfully dumps a scoop into each of their cocktails.

Realizing that his grandfather needs some help on his moves, David begins coaching him in the game of love, with rules that men will recognize fondly and women will roll their eyes at. At the same time, David begins wooing perky non-bimbo Julie (The Practice's Sokoloff), but as his game starts to flounder, Joe's picks up, and the elder student becomes the teacher.

And it's that step-up in Joe's game that leads to a very funny and surprisingly suggestive sex scene between Joe and Edna (Seinfeld's Sheridan) involving lingerie, a slipped Mickey and the work of the aforementioned Viagra. The scene's slightly uncomfortable, not so much because of the age of the lovers, but because that's Matlock up there on screen marveling about his staying power.

Julie and David's romance is a little more paint-by-numbers.



There are thousands of romantic comedies about callow young people, but very few ... OK, none, about seniors.

One almost wishes Fienberg had dropped the kids and focused just on Griffith and his still-considerable gifts.


Play the Game


Rated PG-13: Sexual content and language

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

The verdict: The seniors steal the movie, which would have been even more entertaining without the young folks.

Now showing: Area theaters