Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

THAT OLD FEELING (1997) 1/2 *

Directed by Carl Reiner. Written by Leslie Dixon. Photography, Steve Mason. Editing, Richard Halsey. Production design, Sandy Venetian. Music, Patrick Williams. Producers,Leslie Dixon & Bonnie Bruckheimer. Cast: Bette Midler (Lilly), Dennis Farina (Dan), Paula Marshall (Molly), Gail O'Grady (Rowena), David Rasche (Alan), Jamie Denton (Keith), Danny Nucci (Joey) et al. A Universal Pictures Seagram release.103 minutes.PG-13.
Let's do grammatical justice to the memories of Marcello Mastroianni and Federico Fellini. In "La Dolce Vita" (1960) Mastroianni was a tabloid's reporter. His photographer was called Paparazzo, a name that spread worldwide immediately as a common noun to designate tenacious snapshooters of celebrities. Paparazzo is singular, paparazzi is plural. In "That Old Feeling," Bette Midler refers to the young man whostalks her with his camera as "a paparazzi," which is like saying "a men."

One does not expect culture from Hollywood, but one does expect quality from Carl Reiner. As a jack-of-all-comedies (variously performer, gagman, producer, etc.) he was a luminary of TV's "Your Show of Shows" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." He played in and wrote for movies, directed films that include "Where's Poppa?,"" Oh, God!,"" The Jerk,"" Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid,""The Man With Two Brains,"" All Of Me,"" Summer Rental,""Bert Rigby, You're A Fool." As a father, he produced, with his wife's help,writer-director Rob Reiner. Quite a record.

"That Old Feeling" is the worst movie Carl Reiner has directed, probably the only bad one. With his writer he pathetically attempts to do a sort of screwball comedy with old-fashioned tricks and modern morals, but keeps driving in the wrong direction in a one-way street. And when streets change, the turns are missed.

The picture tries to juggle three married pairs.Lilly (Midler) is a movie star who can't stop acting. She divorced writer Dan (Farina) 14 years ago, following his affair with Rowena (O'Grady), whom Dan then married. Lilly remarried too, Alan (Rasche) a dimwit psychobabbling writer.The two women loathe each other, keep referring to each other's abundant plastic surgeries.At least Rowena tells Dan: "I'm not neurotic, I'm a bitch."

The "new" couples meet at the wedding of Lilly's and Dan's daughter Molly (Marshall) and Keith (Denton) who is running for Congress. At the reception Rowena and Lilly insult each other copiously. Then Lilly and Dan first make a spectacle of themselves in a loud fight. But when Molly exiles them to the parking lot, they switch with irrational suddenness from curses to desire and make love (mercifully off-screen) inside a car. Why a small auto instead when so many large ones are available is another of the many wet-firecracker jokes.

Tedious complications follow. Paparazzo Joey is added to the active list in scenes which, even if you close your eyes, instantly telegraph that he will replace Keith in Molly's affections. No surprises here or anywhere else.

In this terminally ill movie the cracks in the plot multiply and widen, the verbal cracks are bloodless, unwitty and unmemorable. The pedestrian dialogue goes, along with most situations and characterizations, from vulgar to coarse. The slow action is unfunny, forced and colorless.

A romantic and/or screwball comedy cannot work without at least two likable, charismatic, interesting or, at a minimum, amusing characters. No one fills that bill.

There's one-half of a star worth of nice oldies on the soundtrack. Among them: "Anything Goes, " "Our Love Is Here To Stay," "Call Me Irresponsible," "That Old Feeling," "Where Or When," "At Last," "That Old Feeling."

This film was not released, it escaped.

Written 7 April 1997

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel