Movie Quick Take: 'Play the Game,' Starring Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith, as Grandpa Joe, becomes the Casanova of retirees. Doris Roberts is a likely target of his affections.
Andy Griffith, as Grandpa Joe, becomes the Casanova of retirees. Doris Roberts is a likely target of his affections. (Slowhand Cinema Releasing)
Friday, August 28, 2009

A sex romp starring Andy Griffith? Holy AARP! The good news is that the seemingly perennial TV fixture is still funny and sharp and folksy. The bad news is that he lost the bet, or whatever it was that got him into Marc Fienberg's smarmy, lackluster comedy.

Based on the premise that romance has more in common with a game of Battleship than with Cupid firing love darts, "Play the Game" stars several older TV stars -- Griffith, Doris Roberts ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), Liz Sheridan (Jerry's mother in "Seinfeld") -- opposite youngsters Paul Campbell and Marla Sokoloff, the dull point being that human beings of any age will scheme, finagle and conspire to get in bed beside the one they love. David (Campbell), who applies his car salesmanship skills to the singles scene (intelligent women will be laughing at his sexual strategery) finally meets the woman of his dreams but can't get any traction. His grandpa Joe (Griffith), meanwhile, riding a Viagra wave, becomes the lothario of the local retirement home. Both men realize the errors of their past ways, just as viewers are realizing they need an oxygen tank.

Cutesy doesn't begin to describe "Play the Game," the kind of movie that finds a vein of innate humor in being old and sexual while portraying its younger characters as self-absorbed and shallow. It's a good argument for abstinence. Campbell is allowed by director Fienberg to exhibit a catalogue of overly actorly mannerisms, while Griffith's Joe is just a mystery: We're told that Joe has been moping around since the death of his wife, not talking to anyone and losing his zest for life. This guy? Not likely. If anything, he needs restraints. But Fienberg has a direction in which he wants to go, and plausible character development isn't going to get in the way.

Sokoloff is perfectly perky as Julie, and Sheridan and Roberts are their usual solid selves. Griffith, who made a kind of comeback in "Waitress" a couple of years back, isn't Andy Taylor anymore, but then, Opie always seemed to have been the product of an immaculate conception. Watching the 83-year-old actor play a Don Juan isn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, there are far worse things in "Play the Game."

-- John Anderson

Play the Game PG-13, 105 minutes Contains vulgarity and sexual content. At Landmark's E Street Cinema and AMC Loews Shirlington.

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