Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the wet and wild “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” the crazed driver flick “Unhinged,” the old codgers on a mission film “Never Too Late” and the anti rom com “Spinster.”
“Never Too Late,” story of four friends, separated by distance, experience and fifty years starring James Cromwell, is sweet and sentimental but has a serious message at its core. The four Vietnam vets chase their dreams to VOD this week.
After a daring escape from a Vietnamese POW camp, Jeremiah Caine (Dennis Waterman), Jack Bronson (Cromwell), Angus Wilson (Jack Thompson) and Bruce Wendell (Shane Jacobson) were called The Chain Breakers. Half a century later they’re reunited at the Hogan Hills Retirement Home for Returned Veterans when Bronson checks himself in under the guise of recovering from a serious stroke. He’s conned his way into the facility not to hang out with his old pals but to reconnect with the love of his life, former combat nurse Norma (Jacki Weaver). “Sometimes it takes a lifetime to find a happy ending,” she says. But soon after the meet she is transferred to another hospital for a three-month drug trial for Alzheimer’s Disease, leaving Bronson and Company behind.
Thrown together once again in a different sort of prison, Bronson rallies the troops for one last operation of daring do. “We’re the Chainbreakers,” he says. “We don’t sit around feeling sorry for ourselves, we get the job done. I’m going to finish this mission.” They’re not as young as they used to be, but Bronson devises a plan, a run to freedom and Norma.
It’s “The Great Escape,” senior’s style.
“Never Too Late’s” feels like a light, old-codger comedy but at its heart, right next to the pacemaker, is a commentary on how seniors—and in this case, veterans—are treated in long term care. Hogan Hills is essentially a jail with barbed-wired grounds, attendants who behave like guards and while there are no bars, there are more locked doors than Riker’s Island. It’s a timely social issue and is given a fair treatment here.
The engine that keeps “Never Too Late” moving forward, however, are the actors. The Australians, Waterman, Thompson and Jacobson, offer up broad comedic performances tempered by enough sentimentality to make their hijinks likable. Cromwell and Weaver, however, bring the humanity. Their relationship, and their shot at happiness after fifty years, is the is the soul of the film. A subplot involving an evil doctor (Renee Lim) looking for revenge feels wedged in and briefly disrupts the movie’s flow.
“Never Too Late’s” predictability—let’s face it, we all know where this is going—is blunted by the actors and the warmth of the characters who get one more shot at adventure and happiness.
Kenny Smyth (Shane Jacobson) is the Dalai Lama of Waste Management. In Australia he’s the guy you call when you need port-a-potties for everything from the racecourse where the Melbourne Cup is run all the way down to fairgrounds and church socials. He’s also the funniest character to emerge from Australian film since Crocodile Dundee.
Shot in a pseudo documentary style Kenny details the work-a-day existence of a loveable lug who never met a septic tank he couldn’t conquer.
“It takes a certain kind of person to do what I do,” he says. “No one is ever impressed; no-one’s ever fascinated. If you’re a fireman, all the kids will want to jump on the back of the truck and follow you to a fire. There’s going to be no kids willing to do that with me. So, I don’t do it to impress people; it’s a job, it’s my trade, and I actually think I’m pretty good at it.”
Originally conceived and shot as a short film Kenny was expanded to full length when Splashdown (‘We’re number one with your number two’s”), a major portable bathroom rental outfit chimed in with the cash for a feature budget. Mostly improvised Kenny takes what could have been a one-joke premise and stretches it to 100 minutes by going beyond the bathroom jokes. Don’t get me wrong, there is enough scatological humor here to make Urinetown seem like The Sound of Music, but there is also much more.
The film’s main asset is Jacobson as the chubby, wisecracking plumber. He’s in virtually every scene, spouting Aussie vernacular and colloquialisms, as he takes us through the nitty gritty of temporary sanitation solutions. He brings an unexpected warmth and self-depreciating sense of humor to the character and the film that is infectious. He’s very funny, with razor sharp timing and an offhand way with a line, but it’s his personal journey that makes him interesting.
When he’s not retrieving rings dropped down toilet bowls or attending the “Pumper and Cleaner” convention in Nashville he deals with real-life issues like a tense father-and-son relationship, a dysfunctional brother and a budding romance. These sidebars elevate the movie from a one-joke wonder to a story with real human interest. Plumbers aren’t often the heroes in movies, but Jacobson’s portrayal of Kenny and his life is a crowd pleaser.
Kenny is a barefaced ‘feel good’ comedy that works as well as any of Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries.