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  • Joseph W. Smith III

JUST GETTING STARTED never gets started


According to Dictionary.com, “slumming it” means “suffering conditions below those to which one is accustomed.”

This definition applies to nearly everyone in “Just Getting Started” -- including the viewer.

Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jane Seymour, Joe Pantoliano, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Elizabeth Ashley and Glenne Headley all flail and flounder in this hapless dud about low-rent shenanigans at a retirement home run by the carefree Duke Diver (Freeman). Diver’s icky wrastlings with three amorous females are threatened by the arrival of Jones’ handsome, cowboy-hatted he-man, while his loose-handed business practices come under the scrutiny of a corporate watchdog played by Rene Russo.

It’s tough to watch Pantoliano -- veteran of “The Matrix,” “Memento” and “The Sopranos” -- mugging and mooning in what is essentially a nonexistent role.

And it’s well-nigh nauseating to see poor Headley, Ralph and Ashley -- three talented actresses with a bevy of awards and nominations -- flooze their way through crappy, sappy dialog, flaunting their 60-something wares while vying shamelessly for Duke’s attentions. Jones seems stricly on autopilot, though his patented deadpan does net a few mild laughs here and there.

The perennially lovely Seymour really suffers as a heavily painted, trash-talking mol who seems to have dived head-first into the shallow end of the gene pool. In a long career going all the way back to Roger Moore’s first Bond film in 1973, this is the only time I’ve ever seen Seymour look unattractive.

Only Russo emerges unscathed, reveling in a steely cynicism and a stately, “act-my-age” beauty -- assisted by a late-film revelation that makes hers the only character with any depth and believability.

But perhaps more irritating than all this is the way “Just Getting Started” wants to come off as a Christmas movie. Since the film’s plot has nothing to do with winter holidays, one can almost hear the film-crew calling for more pine boughs, more plastic elves and candy canes, more token seasonal tunes on the soundtrack and -- oh yeah, let’s throw in a pair of fighting Santas and knock down a couple Christmas trees, too.

Granted, if you go to an old-age comedy set in a retirement home, you don’t expect “Gone with the Wind” or “Lawrence of Arabia.” But you might hope for something workmanlike and funny -- something along the lines of “Last Vegas,” “Tough Guys” or “Going in Style.”

No such luck; this movie stinks. Even if the moniker “Just Getting Started” hints at a franchise -- which heaven forbid -- it’s still a lousy title. The movie never budges off square one.

“Just Getting Started,”

Written & directed by Ron Shelton

Run time: 91 min.

* 1/2 (out of four)

Rated PG-13 for language, suggestive material and brief violence


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