‘The Hot Flashes’ movie review


There’s not much fight in this team — from left, Beth (Brooke Shields), Roxie (Camryn Manheim), Clementine (Virginia Madsen), Ginger (Daryl Hannah) and Flo (Wanda Sykes) — and the laughs aren’t exactly layups, either. (Michele K. Short)

There’s poetic justice to be found in the fact that Susan Seidelman has a movie coming out the same summer as ‘The Heat.” After all, it was Seidelman — with such pivotal 1980s films as “Smithereens” and “Desperately Seeking Susan” — who paved the way for the brash, sister-powered comedies of today.

Which makes it all the more painful that her new film, “The Hot Flashes,” feels so anemically earnest. The story of a group of middle-aged women who form a basketball team in order to raise funds for a mobile mammography unit, this predictable, pokily paced ensemble sags under the weight of forced humor and its own unimpeachable intentions. Even though it earns an R rating for profanity and some risque material, it’s too meek and mild-mannered to qualify as brave, or even slyly subversive.

“The Hot Flashes” shares the same malady suffered by some of its menopausal protagonists: wanting badly to upend prim convention and politeness, but too afraid of disapproval to go all the way.

Brooke Shields plays Beth, a Texas homemaker who dreams up the idea of the basketball squad and corrals a team of former high school champions to form a ragtag group of misfits: Flo (Wanda Sykes), a local politician and the town’s most visible (maybe only) black citizen; Clementine (Virginia Madsen), whose blonde tresses and freewheeling sexuality make her the object of wary scorn; Ginger (Daryl Hannah), a gangly, Titian-haired car dealership owner; and Roxie (Camryn Manheim), a biker chick whose baked goods are capable of baking whoever eats them.

The wan humor of “The Hot Flashes,” which was written by Brad Hennig, depends on tired caricatures, a running subplot about closeted homosexuality and sight gags like dressing up Sykes in a puffy square-dancing dress or casting a little person as the Flashes’ coach. The game sequences are filmed with a lumbering lack of energy, an awkwardness that afflicts the entire movie. What might have been a welcome cinematic catharsis — “Bridesmaids” for the black cohosh set — instead goes as limp as a half-filled basketball. “The Hot Flashes” could have used both more heat and more flash.

R. At West End Cinema. Contains some sexual content and drug use. 99 minutes.

Ann Hornaday is The Post's movie critic.
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