(director/writer: Dan Fegelman; cinematographer: Steve Yedlin; editor: Julie Monroe; music: Theodore Shapiro, Ryan Adams; cast: Al Pacino (Danny Collins), Annette Bening (Mary Sinclair), Jennifer Garner (Samantha Leigh Donnelly), Bobby Cannavale (Tom Donnelly), Christopher Plummer (Frank Grubman), Nick Offerman (Guy DeLoach), Josh Peck (Nicky Ernst), Katarina Cas (Sophie), Giselle Eisenberg (Hope Donnelly), Melissa Benoist (Jamie), Scott Lawrence (Dr. Ryan Kurtz), Brian Thomas Smith (Busy Work); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jessie Nelson, Nimitt Mankad; Bleecker Street Films; 2015)
“It never rocks despite a talented cast.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A charming but unimpressive Al Pacino plays the aging rock star Danny Collins, a Neil Diamond type, who hasn’t written anything new in ages but still successfully tours singing someone else’s new songs and his oldies while living off his early rep with now senior citizen fans.
The wealthy icon rocker owns a private plane, lives a fast life in his Beverly Hills mansion, does drugs with his less-than-half-his-age sexy live-in unfaithful girlfriend (Katarina Cas) and is a hedonistic party-animal.
Life is re-evaluated when his loyal manager Frank Grubman (Christopher Plummer) gives him as a birthday present a hand-written letter from John Lennon in 1971, that was never delivered to him but instead was to the slimy magazine interviewer (Nick Offerman) of him as a future star, who sold the letter to a collector rather than give it to the young Danny. In 2014 reading the letter from his idol, asking him to remain true to himself and his music, he’s overwhelmed by the letter and decides to reform by starting over. Danny quits his lucrative tour and travels to suburban N.J., where he checks into the Hilton Woodcliff Lake. He makes friends with the wide-eyed staff at the hotel, flirts with the appropriately aged divorcee hotel manager Mary (Annette Bening) and visits the nearby modest home of his estranged and resentful construction worker son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), whom he has never met and was the result of a drunken one-night stand. Tom is married to the perfect woman (Jennifer Garner), who is pregnant and the couple have an adorable but hyperactive 7-year-old daughter Hope (Gabrielle Eisenberg) suffering from ADHD. How Danny changes for the better and integrates himself into the life of his son’s family becomes the gist of the predictable film. The director-writer Dan Fegelman, former screenwriter of Las Vegas, in his directing debut, delivers this emotionally juiced manipulative dramedy, supposedly inspired by a true story.
Too bad it never rocks despite a talented cast. It just settles into being mundane and sudsy and cynically pointless, with Lennon classics such as Imagine and Working Class Hero playing nostalgically in the background. Though the cute peppy kid played by Eisenberg gives it a bit of fun, it seems strained and as phony as the unrealistic message it delivers about rockers and becomes as insufferable as the terminal illness it unnecessarily squeezes into the already boilerplate plot.
REVIEWED ON 6/6/2018 GRADE: C+