GRANDPA'S AT AN AWKWARD STAGE THAT'S NOT SO FUNNY

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No matter what your age or physical condition, you might feel like calling Dr. Jack Kevorkian after watching "Play the Game," a feeble comedy about a slick car salesman (Paul Campbell) and his attempt to push his endearing widowed grandfather (Andy Griffith) back into the dating scene.

Grandpa Joe is alternately sly and out of it, until he becomes the "wild stallion" of his retirement village with the help of a genie in a bottle labeled Viagra. (His key love interests are played by Jerry Seinfeld's mom in "Seinfeld," Liz Sheridan, and Ray Romano's mom in "Everybody Loves Raymond," Doris Roberts.) Griffith is a game performer, but this awkward three-stage rocket of a part - taking him from cagey old codger to sexual neophyte to white-haired Lothario - sputters at every juncture.

Moviegoers have often applauded tales of second childhood, but this movie is about second adolescence, which is a lot harder to make palatable. Here, there's almost no fun to be had from watching an octogenarian endure every teen affliction except pimples. Griffith gets a laugh or two bobbing on the dance floor in his hiked-up chinos. Then writer-director Marc Fienberg lingers so desperately long on his supposedly hilarious face during arousal that you fear you're living through an account of "Grandpa Joe: The Awkward Years."

While Grandpa Joe finds his way toward sexual awakening, his grandson tires of high-powered sleaze on the car lot or in bars and stumbles into the joys of companionship with a perky, fetching graphic designer (Marla Sokoloff). The whole movie has an all-too-cozy, suburbanized yuppie feel to it. A final turnaround, meant to supply shock and edge, simply seals the movie's not-too-subtle moral: If you play the game just right, you can win true love.

No screening

Sorority Row, in which a mysterious killer goes after five sorority girls who inadvertently caused the death of one of their sisters, and Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, in which Madea catches three youngsters looting her home and delivers them to their nightclub-singer aunt, were not screened for critics.

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and language)

Running time: 1:45

Starring: Andy Griffith (Grandpa Joe), Paul Campbell (David Mitchell) and Marla Sokoloff (Julie Larabee).

A Slowhand Cinema release. Directed by Marc Fienberg.

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