just getting started

Top-flight acting talent can't save 'Just Getting Started,' which suffers from a poor screenplay, according to reviewer Linda Cook.

Put senior citizens on the list of under-served demographics when it comes to movies.

If Hollywood green-lights movies such as “Just Getting Started,” it’s obvious that it thinks older audiences will be content to watch older performers onscreen — the heck with a decent script.

So here, in one of the weakest screenplays of 2017, the likes of Morgan Freeman, Renee Russo and Tommy Lee Jones star in an atrocious screenplay written and directed by Ron Shelton, who apparently lost his knack after the excellent “Tin Cup” and “Bull Durham.”

The story is set in a Palm Springs retirement home. You know you’re in for trouble when the first scene is a patronizing, cutesy-poo sexual situation involving Duke, Freeman’s character, who is the manager of the facility.

During poker night, he meets newcomer Leo (Jones). Leo not only beats Duke at poker, but he also catches the eyes of the three women with whom Duke occasionally shares his bed (Elizabeth Ashley, Sheryl Lee Ralph and the late Glenne Headly).

Duke and Leo develop an animosity right from the start, and they take their antagonism out on the golf course.

Leo isn’t the only newcomer. Also arriving on the scene is Suzie (Russo), who carries around a little Yorkie named Romeo. Although Suzie turns a lot of heads among the male residents, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in anyone except possibly Leo, who is deeply smitten at first glance.

Duke’s buddies (Graham Beckel, George Wallace and Joe Pantoliano) cheer him on when he goes up against Leo. But soon it becomes clear that Duke could be involved in something other than a turf war: Someone may be trying to kill him.

This is a lot less interesting than it sounds. The screenplay feels padded, even at its brief running time, with Jones reciting the familiar Robert W. Service poem “The Cremation of Sam MacGee” (this could have been entertaining in and of itself) and Romeo bounding into trouble. Oddly, one character inexplicably begins singing “Silent Night” when there is a break in what I very loosely term “action.”

Freeman and Jones have earned Oscars, for crying out loud. They deserve better than this, and so do you. This movie is just awful. Period.

Still, I couldn’t give it zero stars because it contains a cameo by Johnny Mathis, one of my favorite human beings. I was blessed to hear Mathis in concert at one of the finest performances I’ve ever, or will ever, experience.

So why not listen to a little classic Mathis (I recommend “Sleigh Ride” for the season) and skip this forgettable movie?


Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church