“And So It Goes” is the title of Rob Reiner’s new movie, but it might as well be a eulogy for his career. Not that he seems very upset about it. There he is in this low-budget geriatric farce, rocking an ironically hideous toupee in a supporting role and grinning away — the director who once gave us “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Stand By Me,” “The Sure Thing,” “When Harry Met Sally,” all of them class entertainments and one of them (”Tap”) a bona fide classic.
They seem very far away. The new movie stars a frail-looking Michael Douglas as widower Oren Little, a realtor on Connecticut’s Gold Coast who delights in being nasty to people he likes and a racist to people he doesn’t. Still trying to sell the mansion in which his wife died two years earlier, Oren lives in a run-down beach-front complex he owns, where he makes life miserable for the other tenants.
Chief among these is Leah, a widow played by Diane Keaton, who, unlike Douglas, seems to get stronger with each passing year. As in 2012’s “Darling Companion” — a limp misfire from Lawrence Kasdan, another ’80s survivor — Keaton holds the proceedings together through grace, kindness, and that moonbeam connection to the great beyond. In one scene she spies another character and calls out, “Woo-woo! Woo-woo!” Who even says “woo-woo” anymore? And why don’t they?
“And So It Goes” looks like it was shot on outdated video equipment and has a forced, jokey script by Mark Andrus (”As Good As It Gets,” “Georgia Rule”). It convincingly paints Oren as someone you would never, ever want to meet. What he needs, of course, is a granddaughter he didn’t know he had, deposited on Oren’s doorstep by son Luke (Scott Shepherd), a former addict turned stand-up businessman who’s going to jail for a white-collar crime he didn’t commit. (Because any actual malfeasance on his part would spoil the movie’s black-and-white moral calculus.) “Heroin’s an ugly drug, but it gave me a beautiful girl,” says Luke.
The girl, Sarah (Sterling Jerins), is a shy 10-year-old who takes one look at Oren and flees to neighbor Leah, whom she quickly dubs “Grandma.” And so begins the slow, sweet, obvious process of this Scrooge becoming human again. The journey involves dogs humping giant teddy bears, tenants giving birth on Oren’s couch, and one jarring, tone-deaf scene in which the hero locates Sarah’s junkie mother (Meryl Williams) in a — gasp — poor neighborhood, only to snatch the girl back after the mom becomes distraught from seeing her child for the first time in years. They leave her writhing on the sidewalk and hit the rides at an amusement park. No harm, no foul.
There are a lot of jokes about geriatric whoopee — Oren’s idea of making a pass is “The last time I had sex, I tore my ACL” — and a daft little subplot about Leah’s sideline as a cabaret singer. The early sequences are as charming as “And So It Goes” gets, Keaton warbling “Cheek to Cheek” before bursting into tears at the thought of her late husband. That’s the act. Then Oren takes over as her manager, gets her to loosen up and be “as the kids say, ‘cray,’ ” and soon Leah is crooning Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” in a club owned by Frankie Valli. I don’t know about you, but I liked the character better when she was a mess.
“And So It Goes” has its heart in the right place, and it may go over with aging boomers who automatically perk up when they hear “Both Sides Now” under a film’s opening credits. It’s still as generic and facile as its title — a cut-rate TV movie with front-rank stars that somehow escaped into movie theaters. As the kids say, Cray.
Trailer:Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.