DIRECTED BY Lawrence Kasdan
STARS Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline
Once one of my favorite filmmakers, writer-director Lawrence Kasdan earned Oscar nominations for penning two of the great films of the 1980s (The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist) and one of the forgotten gems from the early '90s (Grand Canyon). He also had a hand in co-scripting three classic fantasy flicks: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But Darling Companion, his first film in nine years, is so poorly written that one wonders if even serving as a spell checker on a fanboy blog would now be outside his reach.
Diane Keaton in Darling Companion (Sony Pictures Classics)
OK, that's harsh, but the frustration is understandable: In addition to wasting Kasdan's own time, Darling Companion also strands a sterling cast in a dog about a dog. Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline headline as Beth and Joseph, a wealthy couple experiencing marital discord. After Beth, with her grown daughter Grace (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) in tow, rescues a dog from the side of the road, she decides to keep the pooch and name him Freeway. Later, when Beth and Joseph stay at their vacation home in the Rockies with assorted family and friends (among them Dianne Wiest and Richard Jenkins), Freeway runs away, and everyone on hand - including a sheriff with kidney-stone issues (Sam Shepard) and, get this, a psychic gypsy (Ayelet Zurer) - spends the next few days combing the area for signs of the missing mutt.
If The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is, as I recently suggested, The Avengers for the elderly, then Darling Companion might qualify as Battleship for that same demographic: Far too much of it meanders, it requires little of its actors, and it's extremely noisy (with the explosions replaced by loud, strained arguments between the characters). But Freeway is an absolute charmer - would that the movie had spent its time on his adventures in the woods than on the dullards who ultimately seem incapable of finding a book in a library.