AND SO IT GOES (PG)
94 minutes/Opens tomorrow/**
The story: The curmudgeonly Oren Little (Michael Douglas) is a real estate agent trying to close his last sale - that of his own house, which he has lived and raised a family until the death of his wife. His current abode is a small building shared with residents such as lounge singer Leah (Diane Keaton). One day, his estranged son Luke (Scott Shepherd) tells him he can no longer look after his daughter Sarah (Sterling Jerins) and needs his father's help.
This one hits high scores on the checklist of crimes that bad comedies commit.
All seven or eight jokes are in the trailer and even then, they are not particularly funny; the characters are people you have seen in a thousand comedies, but made more bland here; and the actors seem to be having a party, but forgot to invite the audience; the child character Sarah (Jerins) should have been wearing a T-shirt that reads I'm Here To Make You Cry.
Douglas is in fine fettle as Oren, the crankiest coot in cinema since Clint Eastwood's Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino (2008).
Oren has the timing and cadence of an old- fashioned cigar-chomping insult comic (the type that hurls "your mother is so fat" gags).
And veteran comedy director Ron Reiner knows comic beats like no one else. Every punchline is beautifully timed and edited.
Except that this is 2014, not 1984, when Reiner's run (This Is Spinal Tap, 1984; The Princess Bride, 1987; When Harry Met Sally, 1989) made him the king of the critically loved, commercially successful comedies.
There is an anachronistic fustiness about this movie. And not just in its style, one in which every joke is presented like a jewel, underlined and given space, in contrast to the current Judd Apatow-influenced tone, which is looser and some would argue more realistic.
The dated comedy style would not be such a problem if it were not for how none of the characters seem to belong in the real world.
They float somewhere in an often-seen fictional Hollywood landscape, in which ageing people such as Oren and Leah (Keaton) cavort and bicker like 20somethings in love, with only a cursory acknowledgement of their advanced years.
Nothing sabotages a comedy more than creating areas that are off-limits to jokes.
Perhaps it is not Reiner's fault.
"Romantic comedy, with a pair of seniors" is not the sexiest marketing tag and Hollywood executives know it, which explains the movie poster.
Douglas and Keaton feature on the picture, but their body language avoids giving away their relationship. Her face has an expression of contempt. After watching this film, you will share her expression.