Senior audiences deserve better than ‘Just Getting Started’

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Newcomer Leo (Tommy Lee Jones, left) challenges the retirement village supremacy of Duke (Morgan Freeman) in “Just Getting Started.” | BROAD GREEN PICTURES

You’ve seen this story many times before. In fact, we usually get comedies in this vein several times annually. Yet, in the case of “Just Getting Started,” it feels like director and writer Ron Shelton didn’t get much further than his original rough draft.

In the past, Shelton has given us some very memorable movies, ranging from “Bull Durham” to “White Men Can’t Jump” to “Tin Cup” — but those achievements arrived long before the beginning of this century. With this disaster, it seems he’s lost his once-fine comedic touch.

The cast features two esteemed Academy Award winners (Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones) plus an actress we’ve frequently enjoyed watching, Rene Russo. Unfortunately, this trio — plus co-stars who include the late Glenne Headly (sadly in one of her final big-screen appearances) — deliver such wooden dialogue, it is amazing they were able to read their lines with straight faces.

Freeman plays Duke Diver, the majordomo of Villa Capri, an upscale retirement community in Palm Springs, where it’s made clear that those still vital seniors fill their days with golf, playing cards and, oh yes, pursuing a very active sex life. Unfettered libidos are showcased constantly in this movie, as if to stress that old folks can still do it — and as if we should be surprised by sexuality post-menopause, or post-male menopause.

One day, Jones’ swashbuckling ex-FBI agent Leo shows up, intent on supplanting Duke as top dog at Villa Capri. This leads to silly, unfunny poker and golf competitions — complicated by the arrival of Russo’s character, a corporate honcho out to clean up Duke’s freewheeling management of the retirement village. We then have to watch the trite rivalry of Duke and Leo as they both chase after Russo’s Suzie — in the midst of learning Duke is actually in witness protection for having gone state’s evidence against his former mobster bosses. Things get really ridiculous when the inept son of the man Duke sent to the slammer shows up, intent on killing him.

You get the message here. Don’t waste your time or money. This film is a total dud and an insult to the intelligence of anyone who would see it — especially the seniors who clearly are the movie’s target audience. “Just Getting Started” simply never does get started. It’s D.O.A.

Broad Green Picturespresents a film written and directed by Ron Shelton. Rated PG-13 (forlanguage, suggestive material and brief violence). Running time: 91 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.

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