- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

Andy Griffith might have made a “Return to Mayberry,” but in his latest project, he’s far away from the folksy sitcom that made him an icon.

“Play the Game” stars Paul Campbell as David, a young man who’s a bit of a ladies man, but one with a heart. He might game women just like he games customers at his father’s car dealership, but he’s also devoted to his grandfather Joe (Mr. Griffith). He has paid for Joe’s stay in a retirement home, where he visits the old man regularly.

Joe’s still feeling lost after the death of his wife two years ago. David thinks it’s time for Grandpa to get back in the game. David takes Grandpa Joe to a club, where he shows him how it’s done and offers some rather good tips for picking up the ladies. He’s then nice enough to play wingman to his grandfather, who captures the attention of hot-to-trot Edna (Liz Sheridan), though he really has a thing for the already-taken Rose (Doris Roberts). Once Edna introduces the sheltered Joe to Viagra, David realizes he’s created a monster — just when he also realizes his usual tricks aren’t enough to capture the attention of Julie (Marla Sokoloff), a smart and beautiful woman who tests David’s commitment to one-night stands, and could use more old-fashioned advice.

A film focusing on love in the sunset years might be a refreshing change to Hollywood’s obsession with youth — but you don’t want the lens to be too telescopic. It’s disconcerting to see the lovable star of series like “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock” say, “Grandpa’s horny and he wants to have some fun” after describing in some detail his first experience with a particular sexual act.

It’s too bad things get so crude, because the film otherwise has a certain charm. Mr. Campbell (“Battlestar Gallactica” and “Knight Rider”) is a winning leading man, and Miss Sokoloff an alluring leading lady. It’s fun to watch them work alongside the old pros, and Mr. Griffith is nothing if not sprightly here.

“Play the Game” goes a little way to redeem itself with an ending that cleverly shows you’ve got to play the game to win the game. You just wish some of its bedroom games remained firmly behind closed doors.

★★

TITLE: “Play the Game”

RATING: PG-13 (sexual content and language)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Marc Fienberg

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

WEB SITE: playthegamemovie.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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