When did it become a prerequisite for aging actors to make movies geared toward septua- and octogenarians? The Golden Boys, a labored and irritatingly slow film from writer/director Daniel Adams based on the novel by Joseph C. Lincoln, squanders an impressive cast for the pursuit of a plot that quickly loses what little comedic value it has. The pacing of the film is glacial, nothing is truly at stake, and the drama underwritten and long-winded in spite of how much the film longs to be a nostalgic throwback to the decent man-and-women comedies of yesteryear.
The setting is Cape Cod, circa 1905. Three men, all more-or-less retired sea captains, bicker in their shared home. There’s wise, gentlemanly and commanding Captain Zeb (David Carradine, in one his last roles), rambunctious Captain Jerry (Rip Torn) and the levelheaded but somewhat rebellious Captain Perez (Bruce Dern). Amidst the largely pointless squabbling that centers on injecting as many references to seafaring as the dialogue can handle, the three men reach an epiphany – they’ve grown tired of keeping house and need someone else to do it for them. The solution is garnered so quickly that you can practically see the screenwriter flexing his pen hand – one of them must find a wife who will act as a house cleaner and caretaker for all three. Will these three sea dogs be able to find a willing lady? What do you think?
The film proceeds to move at a snail’s pace and the characters sadly never move past the thinly sketched “old-geezer” stereotype. They argue constantly, trading similar if not the same lines of dialogues, and even the arrival of the lady in question, Martha (Mariel Hemingway) fails to breathe any life into the film. A subplot concerning the borderline religious zealot John Bartlett (the always-reliable Charles Durning) surfaces and fizzles out, a cheap excuse to allow Martha to remain in the house with the three men.
The performances are similarly undercut by the conventionality of the script. Carradine brings a lifetime of solid working class actor charm to Captain Zeb and creates a wise man of few words and commanding actions but a gentleman nonetheless. Veteran character actors Rip Torn and Bruce Dern provide fine support and Mariel Hemingway is very earnest in imbuing her character with some spark of life. Watching the cast interact would have been enough had the film been eager to advance a permanently stagnant plot. Even more disappointing is the fact that the production design, music and general crew work is solid and even enticing, making for some pleasant locale shots and similarly comfortable golden-lit scenery.
In the end, there’s not much to be said for The Golden Boys. This is a film that counts among hundreds of others, pleasant but not necessary, escapist entertainment that doesn’t move or interest and, in the end, fails to be particularly entertaining. Maybe I am the wrong age group for this film, but relegating slow paced films to the elderly is similar to saying my age category should be eating up box office fast food like Transformers 2. I am certainly not having those stomach pangs and The Golden Boys is just not very satisfying, through and through.
DVD Bonus Features
The fairly recent death of David Carradine no doubt influenced the sole featurette on this disc, the 40-minute featurette “From Zen Master to Shipmaster: The Life and Career of David Carradine", a combination of Carradine interviews regarding the film and more conventional behind-the-scenes footage. The only other extras included are the theatrical trailer and a variety of trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
"The Golden Boys" is on sale August 18, 2009 and is rated PG. Comedy, Drama. Directed by Daniel Adams. Written by Daniel Adams, based on the novel by Joseph C. Lincoln. Starring Bruce Dern, David Carradine, Mariel Hemingway, Rip Torn.