Daniel Adams' The Golden Boys has nothing to do with the Emmy-winning sitcom The Golden Girls (sorry, mom). In no way is it a masculine spin-off that replaces sassy-talking Bea Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan with Rip Torn, David Carradine, and Bruce Dern.
Yet there are similarities worth mentioning. Both rest on characters tolerating their "golden" years. And both offer television-sized entertainment.
For the film, Adams adapts a novel by Joseph Lincoln that's set in Cape Cod, Mass., at the turn of the 20th century. Best friends Zeb (Carradine), Jerry (Torn), and Perez (Dern) tire of bachelor living, so they cook up a chauvinistic plan -- one of the men must marry a woman who'll tend to all of their needs. They run a classified ad, and correspond via letter with potential female suitors before settling on Mrs. Snow (Mariel Hemingway), a headstrong and attractive woman who ignites amorous feelings in the crusty sailors.
Golden Boys isn't a bad movie, just a lifeless one. Adams peddles safe humor that's mashed up and spoon-fed to an audience craving toothless comedy. With commercials dispersed at proper intervals, Boys could occupy a Sunday evening slot on ABC, CBS, or (worst) The Hallmark Channel.
There's a fine camaraderie between the men, though Adams presents his material (and the actors perform it) as if Boys takes place on an intimate, off-Broadway stage. Period costumes and occasional language use try to maintain the historical mood -- Carradine's character actually says "jumpin' jehosephat" without an ounce of irony -- but the chintzy, rustic sets scream "sound stage," not "Massachusetts." And then there's Torn's distracting accent. It's part New England honk and part southern drawl, but he delivers each word as if he's got pancake syrup on his tongue.
Even predictable comedies can surprise, and two thoughts caught me off-guard while watching The Golden Boys: that in the year 2009, directors are still motivated creatively to make bucolic comedies of this ilk, and (more importantly) that studios think there's enough of an audience out there eager to buy a ticket to see them.
We demand Bingo!