A while back, after years of directing good movies in a variety of genres, Rob Reiner decided to focus on tepid, forgettable, upscale comedies aimed at the least discerning, most easily entertained demographic in America: middle-aged white people. So instead of “The Princess Bride,” “A Few Good Men,” and “When Harry Met Sally…,” the once and future Meathead has been shoveling out tripe like “The Bucket List,” “Rumor Has It…,” “Alex & Emma,” and now the latest, “And So It Goes,” a movie so lazy it couldn’t even be bothered to come up with a real title.
Then again, what COULD you call it? What would be an apt title for a bland, meaningless movie in which nothing happens? “And So It Goes” might be as descriptive as it gets here.
Written by Mark Andrus (“Georgia Rule,” “Life As a House”), this leaden chunk of cinematic indifference stars Michael Douglas as Oren Little, a cranky Connecticut realtor who’s a jerk to his neighbors and casually racist toward his clients. (He assumes a Latino couple couldn’t possibly afford the mansion he’s selling; when a black family comes to look at the place, he tells them a black celebrity is the seller.) Oren’s wife died a few years back, taking with her the remnants of humanity that Oren allegedly still possessed.
Ah, but he’s the lovable type of misanthrope. And what makes him lovable? I dunno. Nothing I can see. But the movie clearly expects us to like him. Maybe because he’s the main character? Is that a good enough reason?
Anyway, Oren owns a little four-plex of bungalows and lives in one of the units himself to make it more convenient to antagonize his tenants. One of them is Leah (Diane Keaton), a quirky widow who sings jazz standards at a local restaurant while dressed in a Diane Keaton costume. When Oren learns that his heroin-addicted son is going to prison, he also learns that this son has a 10-year-old daughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), who will have to live with Grandpa Oren while Daddy’s in the joint. Oren has no interest in the arrangement, of course, but Leah picks up the slack and becomes Sarah’s surrogate nana while gradually softening Oren’s calcified heart.
Wait, you say. Is this just another treacly semi-comedy where a grouchy person’s life is changed by having to take care of a child or animal? It is, yes. But it wants to be more than that, despite having nothing else to offer, so it keeps wandering off in other directions. We spend many long minutes watching Oren and Leah alternate between arguing and cozying up to each other. Oren has existential angst about wanting to leave Connecticut and move to Vermont. (Such relatable, life-changing problems!) There’s even a sequence where Oren and Leah’s pregnant neighbor goes into labor and Oren must deliver the baby himself. Yes, really. Can anyone involved with the film have imagined that such a scene would be clever, original, entertaining, or interesting? You know we’ve seen movies before, right?
Though it remains comfortably PG-13, the film is peppered with random crassness like a pooping dog, an old lady who says “Blow me,” and a young boy who exposes himself to a neighbor while changing clothes (prompting way too much conversation about the kid’s willy). That mentality is typical of these movies: nothing too raunchy, just naughty enough to elicit titters from the 50-year-old women in the audience so they’ll feel like they’re watching something edgy. When it comes to actual humor, the best Andrus can come up with is Diane Keaton telling an amorous Oren, “I had a dog once that wouldn’t leave my couch alone. It was more romantic than this.” So that’s what you’re in for. A lot of that.
D (1 hr., 34 min.; )