Don’t “Play the Game”: movie review

Update 7/3/12: I’m sorry that Andy Griffith died, and I worry that his death will create interest in Play the Game, an awful movie. I’m moving my review from August 2009 to the top today, hoping to steer you away from spending your valuable time seeing this film. No, it doesn’t empower seniors or teach about senior sex — quite the opposite. — Joan Price

You’d think that a lively movie about elders dating and having sex (or wanting to) would be just the kind of film I’d applaud. I did applaud the idea of Play the Game when I first heard about it — until I actually viewed it. Maybe I’m just too sensitive about senior sex, but I found this film neither funny nor instructive. In fact, I found it cringe-worthy for these reasons:

1. The whole premise of the movie is that widowed Grandpa Joe(Andy Griffith), living in a retirement community, is lonely but doesn’t know how to play dating games, while surrounded by women, one of whom (Doris Roberts) he’d like to date, and another (Liz Sheridan) who wants to seduce him. Grandson David (Paul Campbell) takes the old man under his wing and teaches him to manipulate women.

We’re led to think that Grandpa will end up reversing roles and educating Grandson about how to stop playing games and communicate honestly, respect women, and create meaningful relationships — something Grandson has been unable to do in his own life. But (spoiler alert:) the opposite happens. We learn that the object of Grandson’s affections (Marla Sokoloff) has been manipulating him more than he’s been manipulating her, and has taught her grandmother (Roberts) to do the same. There, I’ve ruined the ending for you and you don’t have to go see it.

The characters all deserve each other.

2. One of the so-called hilarious incidents is Liz Sheridan as an elder seductress crushing Viagra into a glass, adding wine, and giving it to her seductee without telling him what’s in the glass. This is such a horrible, dangerous idea that I couldn’t suspend my reality check long enough to laugh at the predictible results.

“It’s a miracle!” exclaims our re-energized and rising hero. It wouldn’t have been a miracle if he had been on heart medicine — it would have been a death scene. How funny is that? (This scene used to be online, but seems to have disappeared.)

If you must see this (and I don’t recommend it, unless you want to see if you agree with me), please take a teenager with you and plan a long talk afterwards to debunk everything you saw. Otherwise, your teen might see it on his/her own and believe the dating advice aimed at both young folks and seniors.

My verdict: Ick, skip it. Here’s the trailer, but it doesn’t show how bad it is or how insulting to seniors.


  1. movies on November 29, 2009 at 1:30 am

    This is a fairly good movie for everyone. maybe teens will be a little shy of getting along with the idea of going to this kind of movie, but in the's worth it!

  2. paula, 57 on August 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    I don't go see that many movies, only the really spectacular ones like "Frieda" or the "Lord of the Rings" series (my husband is a LOTR fan and has read the books over 30 times, plus all the other Tolkien books) or the "Harry Potter" series.

    Okay I digress. Just from what I've read here, I don't think I'd even watch this one on TV. But one plus that I notice is that they've made the elders look their age, and not glossed them up to look like younger actors playing senior citizens. Hallmark channel movies are good about this too, with shows featuring older actors looking like elders.

    But I think it's really sad that the movie industry on the whole keeps on putting out such negative and cynical stories in a world crying out for meaningful myths and archetypes. Having senior citizens still making sex and love into a manipulative game is really sad. Implying that elders need to learn from younger people with no reciprocity is also discouraging.

    What makes this movie especially harmful is that the elder make is played by "Andy." The "Andy Griffith Show" is the most watched rerun on television. Some of my friends use it from time to time to school their children about healthy, ethical behavior. Andy always knows what to do and always does the right thing and brings the town back into healthy balance when there's a problem. (I do think it's odd, however, that there are no married couples on this show, not as major characters, everyone is single. It's implied that Opie's friends have two living parents, and no one is divorced that we know of, but still.) Point being that Andy Griffith has only played one role that I’m aware of, in a film with Patirica Neal, where he was acting badly and has become an archetype for good behavior.

    Another positive about the movie Joan reviews here is that at least the subject of elders dating and perhaps having sex is dealt with at all. Until recently sexually interested older people were invisible in popular media, except as a joke, or assisted by special powers from outer space, as they are in "Cocoon." Maybe this movie is at least a step in the right direction.

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