I was joking with a critic friend online that I might have to give the aged Vietnam Vets on “one last mission” comedy “Never Too Late” a better review than Spike Lee’s aged Vietnam Vets on “one last mission” drama, “Da 5 Bloods.”
Because A) the “aged” vets are properly 70+ in age, B) it has far lower ambition, but it manages to amuse and C) it’s a freaking hour shorter than Lee’s strained history lecture/dramedy/treasure hunt/firefight.
Nah. They’re of roughly the same quality when weighed against what the films were going for. I’ll just say I liked this one better, and leave the compare-and-contrast reviewing at that.
James Cromwell (“Babe”) leads this crew, a multi-national special forces team billed as “The Chain Breakers,” as they were once captured and then busted out of a Vietnamese POW camp.
Some 50 years later, Jack (Cromwell) is willing to fake a stroke and skulk in a wheelchair to get into a nursing home and get close to the nurse (Jacki Weaver of “Silver Linings Playbook”) he used to know, way back then. He gets just enough time with Norma to realize she’s beginning to suffer from dementia.
And damn his luck, she’s being shipped off for a three month drug trial that might treat her condition. Jack is stuck in a place which has found him out and caught him trying to escape. His threats to his “captors” don’t have the bite they did when he was young.
“Unless you want to know what it’s like to dribble teeth, let go…”
There’s nothing for it, then, but to get the old team back together — and in the same nursing home. But Wendell (Roy Billing) is in a wheelchair, Angus (screen veteran Jack Thompson of “Breaker Morant” and “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”) is “forgetting” things and the Brit, Caine (Dennis Waterman) has even more serious health concerns.
The “lads” enlist the teenage son (Zachary Wan) of a nurse in their schemes, and even “old Hank” (Max Cullen), the only bloke ever to break out of this “joint,” an actual WWII “Great Escape” survivor. So yeah, he’s 90something and full of piss and vinegar.
So the slapstick and scheming set-up is a “Great Escape” comedy attached “The Notebook” romance.
The various plots to get out are cute and uncomplicated. That goes for the characters, too.
That only takes this intentionally geriatric “romp” so far. And while it’s lovely to see this cast again (Waterman is a British TV vet, Biling has been in plenty of Aussie comedies), “Never Too Late” never transcends the undemanding, old fashioned lighter-than-light entertainment for seniors that it’s meant to be.
A trifle slow and skimpy on the action and believability for anybody under 70, in other words.
MPAA Rating: unrated
Cast: James Cromwell, Jacki Weaver, Jack Thompson, Renee Lim, Dennis Waterman, Roy Billing and Zachary Wan.
Credits: Directed by Mark Lamprell, script by Luke Preston. A Blue Fox release.
Running time: 1:35