Should you encounter a curmudgeon, someone so bitter and grouchy he seems unredeemable, fear not — there is a sure-fire remedy. Simply put this killjoy in the presence of a live birth and have him deliver a baby.
It always seems to work in movies, anyway. Case in point: “And So It Goes,” a middle-aged comedy that uses the cranky-guy formula with very mild results.
The grump in this case is Oren Little (Michael Douglas), a widower who has amassed a fortune as a Realtor. He’s currently living in a small apartment while he waits to sell his million-dollar home, after which he’ll take off for retirement.
Screenwriter Mark Andrus, who did “As Good As It Gets,” contrives a few complications to ruffle Oren’s life. He meets a neighbor, Leah (Diane Keaton), who wants to be a singer; as they are age-appropriate for each other and equally big stars, we can imagine something will happen between them.
Then Oren’s grown son (Austin Lysy) shows up towing a granddaughter (Sterling Jerins). The son is heading to jail for a few months, and the kid has to stay with Oren.
Clearly Oren has no interest in earning a “World’s Best Grampa” coffee mug, because he dumps the little girl off on Leah. Can a change of heart be far behind?
“And So It Goes” is directed by Rob Reiner, who also plays a small part as Leah’s toupee-wearing accompanist and suitor. It’s a measure of how far Reiner’s comic instincts have fallen that he doesn’t do more with a potentially very funny role for himself.
Reiner once made “When Harry Met Sally” and “This Is Spinal Tap,” and it’s puzzling that his skill at setting up jokes and hitting a rhythm has gone into a rut. This movie has a few pleasant scenes (especially when Diane Keaton is singing old standards in a little bar), but for the most part it feels tired.
Keaton relies on her usual mannerisms, and Michael Douglas holds back from painting Oren as a true scoundrel. Yes, there’s a bit of W.C. Fields in the character, but Oren’s personality is a little too easily explained, and Douglas doesn’t seem willing to get into Gordon Gekko mode again.
It’s also one of those films that has characters telling us how rotten Oren is, just in case we thought the movie itself were unaware of it. Not trusting the audience to draw conclusions is a clue to this movie’s problems.
“And So It Goes” (1½ stars)
Some amusing moments, but mostly this comedy about a rich curmudgeon (Michael Douglas) and a would-be singer (Diane Keaton) trying to tend his granddaughter just feels tired. Director Rob Reiner doesn’t display his old comic skills, and the actors are on autopilot.
Rating: PG-13, for subject matter
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Edmonds Theatre, Marysville, Oak Tree, Sundance Cinemas, Thorton Place Stadium, Cascade Mall.