If last year's quietly wrenching Oscar-winner "Amour" revealed the artistic heights achievable by a story of lifetime love and imminent death, "Unfinished Song" reveals an all-too-common middlebrow miasma of easy tears and microwaved warmth.
Much like a critic faced with one too many movies like this, cranky pensioner Arthur (Terence Stamp) thinks of the eccentric, ebullient choir practice his ailing wife (Vanessa Redgrave) goes to at the senior center as a waste of time. Perky choir director Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) sees a crooning wallflower in bottled-up Arthur, however, and well, well, well, there's an upcoming singing competition where he could prove his emotional bonafides.
That strained relationship with his son (Christopher Eccleston) might just get healed too!
There's nothing exactly off-putting about writer/director Paul Andrew Williams' bid for "Calendar Girls" quirk (the elderly warbling hip-hop mainstays), Great Actor appeal, and third-act sniffles through smiles. The acting is audience-friendly, and Stamp is always watchable, effectively sentiment-free even when the movie around him is on feel-good autopilot, which gives particular punch to the expected spotlighted solo at the end.
But "Unfinished Song" is a movie so geared toward hitting its spots, it amounts to emotional Muzak rather than something truly played live.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some sexual references and rude gestures.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
Playing: At the Landmark.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun