Susan “Desperately Seeking Susan” Seidelman has spent her AARP-eligible years making movies for that oft-ignored corner of the filmgoing public — her AARP-eligible peers. She tries her best to give a little R-rated edge to an audience that is too often served warmed over mush.
So “Boynton Beach Club” was a retirement community romantic comedy that was as frank about sex as any movie Dyan Cannon made in the ’70s. And Seidelman’s latest, “The Hot Flashes,” squeezes in a sex scene and plenty of ribald remarks in between heaping helpings of formulaic sports comedy cheese.
It’s a “Best of Times” about menopausal ex-high school basketball players who take on the current crop of state champ teens in their small Texas town, all in the name of saving the local mammogram-mobile. “Flashes” is a golden opportunity for actresses who have hit Hollywood’s “hard-to-employ” age to try their hands at southern fried wisecracks.
The well-preserved Brooke Shields plays Beth, the Burning Bush, Texas housewife who ignores her hot flashes and midlife sweats when she hears that their breast cancer screening program has been defunded. Maybe she can raise the money to save it by “getting the team back together.”
Not that she was ever on this particular team. She married (Eric Roberts is her postman husband) into Burning Bush, but she played some ball in her day. She goes through his yearbook and is rejected by one ex-baller after another. There’s Roxie (Camryn Mannheim), whose decades of “Mary Jane Mudcakes” (pot-packed pastries) have given her hips that are a lane violation all by themselves. Cowgirl Ginger (Daryl Hannah) runs a car dealership and lives with a woman, “just a roommate, you know, to share expenses” and has shared those expenses with her for sixteen years.
Florine (Wanda Sykes) is the acting mayor and isn’t anxious to remind the overwhelmingly white electorate that she’s black. Which basketball is sure to do.
Virginia Madsen is Clementine, the trashy supermarket cashier divorced from the state champ girls’ team’s coach (Carl Palmer).
Sure, all the women change their minds and suit up. And sure, Clementine’s ex will let his team play these women, so long as his ex is a starter.
“That lazy tramp smokes a pack a day!”
Brad Hennig’s script is a collection of Southernisms papering over a threadbare plot and cliched characters.
“When she hears the word ‘hoe down,’ she hits the floor.”
“She’s like a gopher in soft dirt.”
Beth has friction with her husband and with her star player daughter, an under-developed plot thread. There’s a mean girl teen player who takes after her mean fundamentalist mom. And there are games, which holding to stereotypes, reveal that Wanda Sykes is the only true baller in the bunch.
The ladies joke about Ginger being in the closet (“Burning Bush isn’t exactly Brokeback Mountain.”) and listen to inspirational wisecracks from their diminutive coach (Mark Povonelli), who isn’t shy about referencing “Hoosiers.”
“What are we waitin’ for, Gene Hackman to show up?” He never does.
“The Hot Flashes” — yeah, that’s the team’s name — plays like a Tyler Perry movie with a mostly white cast. It’s broad and low, fitfully funny with more female-friendly messages and sermonettes than big laughs.
No, these ladies don’t work enough and yes, that’s a crime. But R-rated or not, these “Hot Flashes” don’t generate much heat — comical or otherwise. A pity, since that rare menopause comedy is a terrible thing to waste.
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content and drug use
Cast: Brooke Shields, Virginia Madsen, Wanda Sykes, Eric Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Camryn Manheim
Credits: Directed by Susan Seidelman, written by Brad Hennig. A Vertical Entertainment release
Running time: 1:39