SENIOR MOMENT (2021)

March 25, 2021

Greetings again from the darkness. Making concessions to age is something all of us deal with … even former test pilots – although some of them might be a bit less inclined to adapt. Such is the case with Victor Martin. He’s in his 70’s and still enjoys ogling beautiful younger women and zipping around Palm Springs in his vintage Porsche convertible. Some might call it cliché or even pathetic, but Victor and his lifelong pal Sal Spinelli are enjoying life.

Director Giorgio Serafini is working from a script by co-writers Kurt Brungardt and Christopher Momenee, and the first thing viewers must overcome is the casting. See, Victor is played by William Shatner and Sal by Christopher Lloyd. Yep, Captain Kirk from STAR TREK and Doc Brown from BACK TO THE FUTURE are the senior citizen buddies living it up. Both actors seem to be having a good time, and seeing the two men on screen together is quite pleasing.

All good things come to an end, and when the city’s new DA cracks down on dangerous elderly drivers, Victor has his license revoked and his treasured car impounded. He’s frustrated, but by happenstance meets Caroline Summers (a terrific Jean Smart). The two are polar opposites, yet there’s a clear connection. She’s a former National Geographic photographer who now owns and runs the local Cuckoo Café – so named despite the titular time piece not being in working order. Caroline is a free-spirited former hippie, and her organic diet contrasts with Victor’s processed honey buns.

Victor admits he’s “still trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up”, but he soon realizes his attraction to Caroline has impacted him more than he expected. It’s an awkward romance made more challenging by the presence of artist Diego Lozana (Esai Morales) and Caroline’s mystical belief in the story attached to the cuckoo clock. The film is loaded with lunacy and is not one that benefits from viewers who prefer thoughtful messages. This is designed to be mostly light-hearted fun with an element of late-in-life romance tossed in for good measure.

As a gift to its target audience, Ruta Lee (SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, 1954) makes a brief appearance, and of particular note is the final screen appearance by Kaye Ballard (she died at age 93). Also appearing in the supporting cast are Don McManus, Joe Estevez, and Jack Wallace. Maja Stojan plays Sonja, Caroline’s daughter, Carlos Miranda plays Pablo Torres, and director Serafini’s wife, LaDon Drummond makes an appearance as one of Victor’s former flings.

The film has faced numerous delays since it wrapped, and lead William Shatner just recently turned 90 years of age. It’s rare when a movie involves a broken cuckoo clock and a tortoise photo, but it’s even less common for the focus to be on humor and a romance between senior citizens. This is one that plays to its intended audience, and doesn’t much care about the rest.

In theaters and On Demand on March 26, 2021

WATCH THE TRAILER


KAYE BALLARD: THE SHOW GOES ON (2020, doc)

July 13, 2020

 Greetings again from the darkness. I feel obligated to disclose that while growing up, I was never much of a Kaye Ballard fan. It seemed she was mostly seen on game shows (“Hollywood Squares”) and her many appearances on Talk Shows and Variety Shows. Her loud and boisterous humor was a bit outside the nuanced observational humor I preferred. Now, after seeing Dan Wingate’s documentary, I have tremendous admiration and respect for this multi-faceted performer whose showbiz career spanned more than 70 years.

One of the first clips we see is Kaye Ballard performing in front of a live audience (where she was always most comfortable) and she says, “I wish I was 90 again.” It’s a great line that not many comedians get to use. Ms. Ballard died in 2019 at age 93, and she never stopped performing. Director Wingate’s opening credits are in “old school” style, replete with flashing neon lights and big band/orchestral music. It’s the perfect choice for the profile of a performer who evolved as the business changed.

We listen as she recollects the start of her career, and then systematically walks and talks us through the next 70 plus years. She was only 16 years old when she joined Spike Jones’ band, and she admits performing is what she always wanted to do. Wingate includes comments and clips from an incredibly diverse group of entertainers – ranging from Liz Smith to Perry Como to Henry Mancini to Bette Davis to Carol Burnett to Ann-Margret to Woody Allen (and many more). Composer-Singer Michael Feinstein has a few appearances throughout the film, providing some structure, but interviews with Ms. Ballard keep her on screen much of the time.

It’s clear she always thought her best work was from her time in nightclubs, and though she never stopped those performances, her career shifted to live theater and then to TV. Her best-known TV role was co-starring with Eve Arden in “The Mothers-In-Law” series from 1967-69 (re-runs available on Amazon Prime), and then later had a recurring role in “The Doris Day Show.” Ms. Ballard was a vibrant performer and an extremely talented singer.

She jokes about being typecast as a “screaming Italian”, but hearing her talk about her friendships, including Marlon Brando, Carol Channing, and the recently deceased Jerry Stiller, makes it clear she established many personal connections over the years, and was always quick to help out another performer. She even speaks to a couple of exceptions, including Phil Silvers. And who would have guessed she crossed paths with Andy Warhol, while also performing for President Ronald Reagan at The White House? This is a woman who is very grateful and appreciative of the career and friends she made, and I walked away feeling educated, and maybe even guilty for undervaluing her talent. Kaye Ballard was much more than an “X” or “O” on “Hollywood Squares” … she was an incredibly talented and generous woman who lived her dreams.

Viewing details available at KayeBallardMovie.com

watch the trailer: