If Vizzini were alive to see the state of Reiner’s career today you know he’d say, “Inconceivable!!” Academy Award winners Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton star in Rob Reiner’s And So It Goes.
Director – Rob Reiner
Screenplay – Mark Andrus
Producer – Rob Reiner, Alan Greisman & Mark Damon
Rated PG-13 for some sexual references and drug elements
After losing his wife to cancer, Oren Little (Michael Douglas) makes no effort whatsoever to to play nice, acting obnoxious to anyone that comes across his path. All he wants to do is sell one last house so that he can retire with some peace and quiet.
The promise of peace and quiet is interrupted, though, when his estranged son Luke (Scott Shepherd) arrives to drop off the granddaughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), his father never knew before serving a prison sentence. Utterly clueless when it comes to raising a 9-year-old girl, Oren looks to his neighbor Leah (Diane Keaton) to help by handing Sarah off to her. Now he can move on.
But I’ll bet you a billion dollars Sarah’s plucky and adorable demeanor’s gonna wear that crab ass curmudgeon down, and he will learn to open his heart and love.
Or some other crap similar to that.
There was a time when director Rob Reiner (“Yous a meathead!”) not only directed great movies, he made classics. This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride (his best film), When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men – from the mid ’80s to early ’90s, Reiner was a filmmaking force, and showed quite a diverse range, with no two movies of his being alike. Then he did the disaster North and it was all downhill from there.
And So It Goes is just another reminder from Rob Reiner that those once great films of his are that old.
Reiner’s clearly winging it in career twilight, uber-safe mode. To say this film is pure formula is an understatement. You could connect the dots here with your eyes closed. It’s not that it’s formulaic that’s the problem; it’s that this is just a pedestrian and dull film, with everyone from the cast and crew simply going through the motions like they could care less about putting any work into this. I expect better from two Oscar winning performers, and although it’s been over twenty years since Reiner’s done anything worthwhile, those six films mentioned above prove he’s better than this.
Writer Mark Andrus (who co-wrote the much superior As Good as It Gets with director James L. Brooks) runs the viewer through a gauntlet of story trappings, but to his credit, spares them from a few as well (no exes from out of the woodwork and no long lost relative to claim the child in an emotional custody battle). His biggest problem, though (aside from a loaded, unnecessary middle act twist involving Oren’s son), is that this is essentially As Good as It Gets Lite, with Michael Douglas playing a 21st century Melvin Udall. Jack Nicholson made that character work like a charm, and has the Best Actor Oscar on the mantle to prove it. Douglas just wings it like he’s been doing for the past ten or so years. I’ll admit it’s nice to finally see him in a senior role, as if it’s his way of admitting his middle-aged playboy days are now behind him, but the writing does him no favors, and the grumpy racial humor isn’t even clever like it was with Nicholson’s Udall. It’s just casual, bland, and predictable (he decorates his home for sale with ethnic photos that depend on the race of his clients), like everything else about this film.
Hell, even Diane Keaton’s just playing a variation of the same comfortable role she’s been playing for what seems like forever. It’s not a bad performance by any means, and there are moments where she and Douglas elevate the material just slightly, but like Reiner and his films, I’m almost starting to forget this is the same woman that was Kay Adams and Annie Hall.
Sterling Jerins, though, is likeable and convincing enough as the granddaughter. It’s not like it’s the most difficult role in the world to play, but someone’s gotta put at least a little effort into this. Frances Sternhagen easily steals every second that she appears, which unfortunately isn’t much, but she does provide some freshness to the obligatory smart ass old lady trope we see too often.
I didn’t hate And So It Goes, but I didn’t like it either. It’s just sitting there, wallowing in safe mediocrity. Think of this as vanilla ice cream, and even worse, NSA vanilla. I laughed a little and both Sterling Jerins and Frances Sternhagen are two standouts amidst all the meh surrounding them, but there’s just nothing special about this film, and it doesn’t even try to be. It’s biggest crime, though, is continuing to tarnish three once great careers in Douglas, Keaton and Reiner. Do yourself a favor and watch When Harry Met Sally instead.
I give And So It Goes a C- (★★).