“And So It Goes” has the same sourpuss-meets-saint plot you expect from the screenwriter of “As Good as It Gets.” Mark Andrus also seems allergic to using nouns in his movie titles.
But what this romantic comedy, aimed at older audiences, lacks in ingenuity it makes up for in star power. Watching two Oscar winners square off at any age is sometimes as good as it’s going to get.
Michael Douglas plays Oren Little, a Connecticut real estate agent pushing one last high-dollar property before retirement. Losing his wife to cancer a few years back has turned him into a callous loner, unsympathetic to adults, kids or animals — he’s introduced shooting a paint gun at a stray rottweiler.
His only response to the tenants of the waterfront complex he owns and lives in is “complain to the manager.”
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Still, he does reveal a little spark — possibly lust — when talking to neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton). The recent widow spends her evenings singing standards at a restaurant, usually breaking down sobbing during between-song banter. (Funny that Douglas’ previous comedy, “Last Vegas,” also found him falling for a 60-something lounge singer, played by Mary Steenburgen.)
Everything changes when Oren’s estranged son (Scott Shepherd) shows up. The ex-junkie is heading to prison for a few months and must drop off his 10-year-old daughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), whom Oren didn’t know existed.
“I already tried to raise a kid. It didn’t work out,” Oren protests.
Leah volunteers to help care for the adorable moppet, while Oren spends the summer reluctantly thawing his distaste for grandparenting.
The plot has the odor of sitcom conventions, but it’s less cloying than you might think. For every cliche stumbled over (a neighbor’s wacky childbirth scene), it manages to avoid others (a trip to Junkytown to meet Sarah’s birth mom thankfully doesn’t end with a court battle to reclaim the child).
The scenes with young Sarah are heart-tugging. Yet how much more effect would they have if she weren’t so angelic? Imagine if Oren were saddled with a real-life tween — one who throws tantrums or suffers social anxieties. Sarah just accepts anything thrown at her with a quiet shrug. Dullsville.
The movie fares better with the mature relationship between the two adults at opposite ends of the emotional teeter-totter. Douglas brings some Gordon Gekko bite and Keaton some Annie Hall eccentricity. This leads to amusing moments, such as Oren flailing in his attempts to be complimentary.
“I’ve sold houses older than you in a lot worse condition,” he says.
Rob Reiner handles directing chores with scant hint of the zest shown in his early triumphs “This Is Spinal Tap” and “The Princess Bride.” Though he hasn’t delivered a superior effort in decades, this is his least-embarrassing outing since 1995’s “The American President,” which first teamed him with Douglas.
Reiner also turns up in a supporting role as Leah’s pianist. Whatever character-acting chops he once displayed during the “All in the Family” era have devolved into mugging shtick.
Mercifully, the peripheral characters are really just noise. “And So It Goes” is perched on the charisma of its big-name leads, who remain watchable despite the innocuous material.
And if you don’t like it? Well, complain to the manager.
‘AND SO IT GOES’
Rated PG-13 | Time: 1:34