“Wild Oats” begins with a funeral.
“So brave…”He’s in a better place.” “This is the nicest pot-luck wake I’ve ever been to.” “I’m sorry for your loss. And I just LOVE your house.”
Eva (Shirley MacLaine) is burying her husband, Maddie (Jessica Lange) is the one falling to pieces.
Not about Frank, her friend’s dead husband, but her own lesser half who is having an affair at the office.
“Who brings a secretary to the funeral?”
Demi Moore’s the hysterical daughter — “You have NO one, now! Where are you going to live? Without DADDY?” What she means is, “When can we see the house?”
Hysterical tears, insults, peals of laughter and…no, that life insurance policy of Frank’s won’t last long. And a lady can’t dine out on “You were the best teacher I’ve ever had,” even in this small town.
As Maddie’s husband (Colin Walker) just “packed up his clothes and moved in with Clarissa’s 25 year old ass,” we’re presented with two retiring “best friends for 40 years” (Oscar winners) with a lot of grief and time on their hands, time to get into mischief.
Well, not so much time. And maybe the life insurance company made…a mistake?
“Wild Oats” is a bittersweet better-to-burn-the-candle-late-than-never comedy waddling around on the flimsiest, corniest bones. Director Andy Tennant (“Hitch,” “Sweet Home Alabama”) likes comedy’s low-hanging fruit. And he’s not shy about taking forever to get is movies started. Even short ones like “Oats.”
The ladies take off to the Canary Islands, with an aged insurance investigator (Howard Hesseman) who will be the fall guy for the “mistake” if he doesn’t catch them before they have too much fun, on their tails.
Along the way, a doddering, forgetful old charmer or con artist or nut (“He’s demented, honey.”) played by Billy Connolly shows up. And the “adventure” begins.
Gambling, torrid “Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Graduate?'” hook-ups, “let yourself go” all while the long arms of Big Insurance reach out to spoil all the fun. That’s the set up.
But Tennant can’t wait to get at that, move past it and get on to the far less funny and less promising “twists” that follow.
Lange does the high-mileage bipolar vamp thing well, lurching from admiring herself in the mirror to weeping at her lot. MacLaine plays the pedantic teacher here, correcting grammar, geography and history, when the need arises.
Hesseman manages befuddled “villain” with ease.
But the laughs in this insomnia cure come in the first act, almost all of them at the funeral. Once the machinations of a tedious, trite and formulaic script take hold, the novelty of hearing lionized actresses curse (demurely) wears off, so do the charms of “Wild Oats.”
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Jessica Lange, Billy Connolly, Howard Hesseman, Demi Moore
Credits:Directed by Andy Tennant, script by Claudia Meyers, Gary Kanew. A Weinstein Co. release.
Running time: 1:25