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Seniors deserve more than this 'Game'

Let me just preface this by saying I like old people.

I respect them. I think they're neat. I believe you can learn a lot from them. I especially like them when they're not driving in front of me, slowing down traffic by driving 15 miles an hour, looking for someplace -- anyplace -- that sells saltwater taffy. But that's neither here nor there.

I say this because I don't want to give the impression that I'm anti-geriatric during this panning I'm gonna give "Play the Game." I'm sure many people have been waiting to venture down to the ol' nickelodeon to check this out, especially since it stars their beloved Andy Griffith, Monsieur Matlock himself.

But there are some things you kids need to know. For starters, Sheriff Andy Taylor will be getting his freak on. Oh yes. He's talking about getting some Viagra, being a chick magnet -- the whole nine!

Griffith doesn't come out of the box talking so bluntly. His character is an 84-year-old retiree who has been out of the relationship loop since his wife died. It's now up to his slick, playa-rific, car-salesman grandson (Paul Campbell) to get him back out there.

While he's helping Pops scare up some hip-replaced honeys, the grandson is looking to score with a pretty catch (Marla Sokoloff) of his own. Unfortunately, his Machiavellian macking methods are not working on this smart cookie the way they should.

First off, I just gotta ask: What is this Hallmark Channel stuff doing on the big screen? The movie, with its bromide-filled dialogue and sunny, incessantly cheeky earnestness, seems tailor-made for the small screen, right before a really good "Providence" marathon. Secondly, I thought these player-finding-true-love movies went out with pagers, Cross Colours gear and Spice Girls music. Then again, this movie does seem like one big throwback to the '90s, with its outdated slang (who still refers to having sex as "the wild thing"?) and its annoying, alterna-pop soundtrack. (Every song sounds like it was done by the Gin Blossoms. Considering I haven't heard a new song from them since the '90s, there's a good chance it's them.)

I'm sure viewers will get a kick out of seeing Griffith attempt to get his groove back. It's almost unfortunate that the movie can't just be about Griffith acting like Alfie in an old folks' home, putting the moves on dames like Doris Roberts and Liz Sheridan (aka Jerry's mom on "Seinfeld"). I'd rather watch Griffith come in the bingo-hall door pimpin' than watch the Joel McHale-looking Campbell realize that he's falling in love with Sokoloff's elusive lovely and that he, to borrow a line from a Joe song, don't wanna be a playa no more.

From the looks of it, "Game" makes most of its characters look like they have no idea how to get a member of the opposite sex. The young people are too busy playing highly elaborate, virtually sociopathic mind games with one another (the movie ends with a rope-a-dope of a twist that will certainly have the ladies grinning with approval), while the old people apparently have forgotten how to date and have regressed to being shy teenagers.

It's here where writer-director Marc Fienberg's attitude toward senior citizens dang near verges on the condescending. He wants to be the one to show that old people can still be virile and frisky. Unfortunately, everyone -- from "The Golden Girls" to the old folks in "Cocoon" to the late, great Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in those "Grumpy Old Men" movies, to Clint Eastwood whooping young knuckleheads' behinds in "Gran Torino" -- has already beaten him to the punch. It's especially a shame how he characterizes Griffith's alive-and-kicking whippersnapper. His old-fashioned attitude (he utters the word "horsefeathers" in this film) and sexual cluelessness are supposed to make him look adorable. But they actually make him look like he hasn't been a part of the 20th century.

The adult movie-going crowd deserves a lot more than the lighthearted but lamebrained, TV-movie shenanigans "Play the Game" doles out. The fact of the matter is old people don't need to play any kind of game to find a mate. They've been getting together on their own quite well for a long time. Heck, how do you think most of us got here?

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