It’s rare these days to find a film that appeals to a wide range of ages. Play the Game aims to do that on several levels, and with just the slimmest margin, might satisfy multiple-aged targets.
David (Paul Campbell) possesses the typical knack of a car salesman – a PhD in “I can sell anyone anything.” It’s a good thing, too, because his boss is his grumpy dad (Clint Howard) who owns the dealership. Though not exactly overly emphasized here, one gets the feeling there’s no strong father/son relationship between these two.
That’s why David would rather spend time with his grandfather. Joe (Andy Griffith), now a widower, lives in a senior complex and spends a lot of time alone even though there are many women around for companionship. David realizes he might be able to teach Grandpa the very “Steps To Get a Woman” that he and his friends use.
Slowly Joe comes out of his shell. He makes innocent conversation with Rose (Doris Roberts), but her boyfriend frowns when Joe keeps giving her roses. It’s when he meets Edna (Liz Sheridan) that Joe really scores. She turns him into a real hot commodity in the senior home.
Andy Griffith & Doris Roberts
While David seems delighted with Grandpa’s new zeal for life, he’s not so celebratory about his own female conquests. He set his eye on the beautiful and independent Julie (Marla Sokoloff). Yet none of his tricks work on her. She sees him more as a big brother. Slowly David starts to understand the advice his grandfather gave him about finding real love. But is it too late?
Paul Campbell & Marla Sokoloff
Play the Game is based on writer/director Marc Feinberg's own real experience with his grandfather. How he got his story to the big screen is almost as interesting as the film. The struggle took 12 years during which time he served as writer, director, producer, distributor and now marketing machine. Feinberg is most pleased that the film is attracting a mixed audience.
“From baby boomers to seniors there are not a lot of movies targeted to all ages,” he said. “Of course, the seniors love it, but as weeks go by we’re seeing high school and college age kids coming. They like the dating story line and walk out feeling they learned something. And it’s nice to see them make a connection with their grandparents and laugh together.”
Although the story is occasionally slow – and I wasn’t quite ready to see Mayberry’s Sheriff Taylor rolling around in a love nest – Play the Game receives a boost from its capable cast. Griffith (Waitress), Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) and Sheridan (Seinfeld) tackle their roles like the professionals we’ve come to cherish. They deliver heartfelt, interesting and believable performances.
Paul Campbell & Marla Sokoloff
Sokoloff (Burn Notice) is absolutely charming as the controlled Julie with a few tricks of her own. I hope to see more of her on the big screen. Clint Howard (Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) never needs a lot of time to make an impression, and his nasty attitude as Dick instantly raises eyebrows. Likewise for his own father, Rance Howard (Frost Nixon), who is also Ron Howard’s dad. His brief appearances are nicely noticeable. Paul Campbell is perfect as David, especially in the way he frets while struggling to keep Dad happy. He finds his own way, but he’s always thoughtful and open with his grandfather.
Feinberg’s movie has become one of the top five independently distributed domestic films of 2009, so he deserves congratulations. Personally, I like the unexpected twist in his movie and appreciate its lack of violence, murders, doom & gloom and unending profanity.
There are many good moments to savor in Play the Game. I definitely recommend it for general audiences.
Photo credits: Story Films