Rob Reiner has made some great films, but they were all in the 1980s: Stand By Me, The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally were each perfect examples of their genre.

This excruciating odd-couple comedy is a perfect example, too, of what happens when a bad script is greenlit because of the talent attached.

Screenwriter Mark Andrus wrote As Good As It Gets, though his three turns at bat since, including the appalling Life As a House and Georgia Rule, have been strikeouts. He cannot, presumably, do worse than this, a film with a title that practically shrugs with contempt for the audience.

Douglas plays Oren Little, a curmudgeonly widower nearing retirement after a lucrative career in real estate; Keaton is his neighbour, Leah, a widow and bad lounge bar singer who is -- now here's something new -- brittle and neurotic and squealing. They argue a lot. Yep, you guessed what happens in the end, but the getting there is truly painful.

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Writer and director chuck in every distraction that ever got mentioned in a brainstorming session ("Hey! Let's have a guy in a suit slip over on a lawn waterslide!"; "How about a baby being born in the lounge?") and introduce a long-lost son and a surprise granddaughter (who will turn Oren from monstrously cruel cynic to a softie, suddenly and inexplicably).

The film takes an extraordinary amount of time setting up its premise, puts nothing at stake for anyone, and dashes up narrative side-roads without warning. Basic plausibility blunders abound: a character who turns up without luggage later produces pyjamas from a suitcase; a character who engages in very casual sex is given the morning-after line "I don't do casual sex"; an accompanist helps Leah audition for a new gig, apparently unconcerned that she will leave his established residency without a vocalist.

The cast will pull in punters this film does not deserve, even though both Douglas and Keaton might as well have phoned their performances in. Reiner, incidentally, plays that accompanist -- in a bad wig whose only purpose is to sustain a joke about how bad his wig is; he's also the falling-over guy in the suit. When the director's doing the pratfalls, you know a film's in trouble. Dreadful.

Cast:

Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton

Director:

Rob Reiner

Running time:

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94 mins

Rating:

M (sexual references)

Verdict:

Excruciatingly awful odd-couple romcom

- TimeOut