Jessica Lange. Shirley MacLaine. Billy Connolly. Those are the three main reasons to see a new comedy about embracing life in our golden years.
Sadly, there’s not much else going on with “Wild Oats” to recommend it.
MacLaine plays Eva, a recent widow who comes into a windfall of cash when a life insurance company makes a big mistake. Jessica Lange is Maddie, her best friend of 40 years. Maddie just got dumped by her husband for a much younger secretary.
The two decide to take the money as a perfect happenstance. They’ll live out their golden years in Spain, finally enjoying life on their own terms. Connolly pops up as Chandler, a forgetful man and a suitor for MacLaine’s widow.
Will the insurance company realize its mistake before Eva and Maddie make the most of the error?
DID YOU KNOW: Shirley MacLaine said she found Billy Connolly so hilarious on the set she ruined one take with her uncontrollable laughter. She needed 11 minutes to regain her composure.
For its first half hour, “Wild Oats” isn’t a bad affair. There’s a lot of pleasure to be had watching Lange and MacLaine portray old friends eager for a second chance. The two have wonderful chemistry and bring a warmth that suggests a funnier movie is to come.
Unfortunately, “Wild Oats” can’t get out of its own way.
It decides early on that having two wonderful actresses rediscovering passion while dealing with the hardships of old age is not enough. We have to get an insurance broker chasing after them, a predictable plot involving Connolly’s suitor and a terrible ending that feels like it was tacked on at the last possible second.
Even a comic veteran like Connolly can’t save this mess. The “Boondock Saints” actor is typically able to bring laughs to even the weakest comedies, He’s left with a character that simply doesn’t work. He services whatever minor detail is needed to move the plot forward, logic and motivation be damned. His character is rarely funny or believable.
FAST FACT: “Wild Oats” made its premiere on the Lifetime channel in August.
Speaking of actors better than their material, “Oats” should have trusted its lead actresses more. The quiet moments between MacLaine and Lange are delightful. There’s plenty of humor and drama to go around. Instead, the film gets more and more preposterous with much of the over the top humor falling flat.
“Oats” runs a brisk hour and 20 minutes. It still feels too long as it stretches its story beyond reason.
HiT or Miss: MacLaine and Lange are wonderful as always, but they deserve a movie with more heart and fun than “Wild Oats.”