A thin remake of As Good As It Gets, And So It Goes pairs Diane Keaton with Michael Douglas to simulate the sort of second-chance AARP romance that’s intended to stimulate grizzled audiences who see one movie in theaters every three or four years. Among those who are portioning their amusements on that timetable, I imagine Reiner’s increasingly inept direction won’t be much of a mitigating factor, but for the rest of us who rightly use the term “inoffensive” as a pejorative, Reiner’s tendency to handle even the most absurdly unchallenging material with kid gloves gets more remarkable with each new osteoporosis-ridden film.
Working from a script by As Good As It Gets author Mark Andrus, And So It Goes slots Douglas in the Melvin Udall role, though Oren Little is markedly less prickly from the outset. His racism is merely situational compared to Melvin’s; Oren just tries to entice buyers for his $8 million estate by strategically placing framed pictures of whatever ethnicity happen to be scheduled for the next showing around the house. Instead of spewing hate-crime speech at his neighbors, Oren (who’s actually their landlord) just shrugs off their cordialities like a cow swatting at flies with its tail. And rather than stuff a dog down a garbage chute, he merely shoots at one with a paintball gun. The real cracks in the widower Oren’s domestic history emerge when his ex-junkie son shows up on the eve of his jail sentence to drop off his daughter, Sarah (Sterling Jerins). With Dickensian callousness, Oren passes her off on his neighbor, Leah (Keaton), a widow vocalist whose supper-club banter routinely derails into ugly cries. Thus, a mutual inconvenience becomes the launching pad for some convenient golden-years philandering, as their shared second chance at parenting revives their long-ago discarded domestic spirits.
Whatever As Good As It Gets had going for it (an admittedly low bar), it at least supplied Melvin’s impending redemption with a sense of urgency, as his bottomless reserve of bile made it clear he wouldn’t get many more chances in life to turn things around. And So It Goes shirks that impression. It would’ve anyway under Meathead’s blindly sagacious supervision, but even the main performers aren’t exactly tasting blood here. Just as Douglas doesn’t have it in his guts to make Oren a real son of a bitch (a grandpa Gekko), Keaton’s jangled neurotic tics lack any dramatic import; they’re simply sprinkled atop her on-screen persona like jimmies on a bowl of ice cream. And by the time their neighbor is giving birth on Oren’s couch (the only scene in the film that rivals The Bucket List’s skydiving sequence for hysterical, Ed Wood-level misdirection), their insipid happy ending is a foregone conclusion. In fact, between this and The Bucket List, Reiner (who appeared like a phantom throughout the recent HBO documentary The Case Against 8) appears to be making a cinematic (sic) case for the geriatric days being prime time for making the world a better place. If he truly believed that, he’d hang up his moviemaking skates and focus on the PACs.