Movie review: ‘Seems Like Old Times’

slotSeems Like Old Times” is one of those crime comedies where the crime is secondary to the comedy and, with the legendary Neil Simon as its author, the dialogue is pitch-perfect and funny from beginning to end. While the top-billed stars Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and Charles Grodin are good, you’lll find that supporting actors Robert Guillaume and T.K. Carter are especially good. Check it out, it’s a fun time of a genre long gone in Hollywood.

‘Seems Like Old Times’
(1980; 100 minutes; rated PG; directed by Jay Sandrich and starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and Charles Grodin)

THE ONLY CRIME HERE IS IF YOU MISS THIS ONE

(NOTE: I expanded this review with some additional opinion, more trivia and some reorganization on Aug. 26, 2016.)

Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase showed their chemistry together twice. First with “Foul Play” in 1978 (click here for my review) and it is a crime comedy offering sparkling dialogue and good acting from its excellent cast. Not quite as good overall but certainly as funny is their reunion two years later in Neil Simon’s “Seems Like Old Times.”

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Hawn is at her ditzy best here, while Chase is at his funny best and co-star Charles Grodin is at his pedantic best. They all merge in a story about a man forced to rob a bank who turns for help from his ex-wife, who is a liberal defense attorney married to the rigid district attorney who’s soon to be the state’s attorney general.

In “Seems Like Old Times,” Chase plays “Nicholas ‘Nick’ Gardenia,” a writer isolating himself in a cabin off California’s Pacific Coast Highway with a view of the ocean. He is kidnapped by two fugitives who force him at gunpoint to rob a bank. He’s kicked out of their car and rushes for help from Hawn, who plays “Glenda Parks.” While this is happening, the surveillance photo from the bank lands on the desk of district attorney “Ira Parks,” played by Grodin.

So the hilarity builds as the cops and Grodin are chasing Chase (love the phrase) and Grodin’s home becomes the hub of the film: from Chase hiding out in a garage guest room (under the bed when Grodin and Hawn get amorous on it) to scenes in the couple’s kitchen including Chase ultimately serving them and the governor dinner in the hilarious climatic confrontation between hubby and ex-hubby. The denouement comes in a courtroom with the judge bearing the brunt of the leftover battle.

Here’s a look at some of the primary cast:

  • Oscar winner (not for this one) Hawn plays off her ditzy nature perfectly here, but there’s also an undercurrent of strength and intelligence that makes her endearing. She is so smooth that you forget that what she is doing is difficult. Hawn, who was also in “Private Benjamin” (with an Oscar nomination for it), “Overboard,” “The Sugarland Express,” “Shampoo” and “Swing Shift,” pulls off every acting emotion she attempts and is simply delightful. She won her Oscar for “Cactus Flower” in 1969.
  • Chase, who landed two Golden Globe nominations for “Foul Play,” is just as easy to watch with the added benefit of physical comedy from the sly (an expression) to the fall-down. His timing is impeccable and he delivers a performance falling just short of his perfection in “Caddyshack.” It’s an effort that he builds on even more for his work in “Fletch” (click here for my review). After “National Lampoon’s Vacation” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (click here for my review; and I don’t count the middle one) Chase racked up a bunch of mediocre efforts (“Caddyshack II” was as low as it goes for him while “Man of the House” from 1995 was watchable – click here for my review). He, of course, is a comedy legend from his SNL
  • Golden Globe nominee (not for this one) Grodin plays the uptight, prissy no-fun “Ira Parks” with such ease. He’s also funny in the way Simon made sure to give the character. He surprises a bit with his physical violence with Chase but quickly reverts to character. Grodin has been entertaining with droll comedy from “The Heartbreak Kid” (his nomination) to “Midnight Run” (click here for my review) to “Beethoven.” I don’t understand it, but he was nominated for a “Razzie” (awards given for horrible films and actors) for his work here. I’m usually in agreement with the “Razzie” folks, but they’re way off base here because Grodin is truly effective.

At the same time the stars are strutting their stuff, two of the supporting players are getting their licks in, too:

  • Three-time Golden Globe nominee (not for this one) Robert Guillaume, who is best known as “Benson DuBois” on TV’s long-running “Benson” and what earned him his nomination, plays “Fred,” the right-hand man to Grodin. Guillaume hits the right notes each time in this understated effort that provides a solid foundation for the stars. He’s sharp, intelligent and knows how to deliver his lines. Guillaume was also in “Spy Hard,” “First Kid” (click here to read my review) and was a voice actor in “The Lion King.”
  • T.K. Carter plays “Chester,” the wise-cracking youngster who was arrested for stealing limousine hubcaps during a funeral and is now working for Hawn as her chauffeur. Carter, who did films from “The Hollywood Knights” (click here for my review), “The Thing,” “A Rage in Harlem” and a string of TV episodes (including “A Different World,” “Punky Brewster” and “The Waltons”), doesn’t let this one become a stereotype. He’s funny and knows how to work with the A-list actors. Good job, T.K.

Several great scenes play out before Harold Gould, who plays “Judge John Channing.” Gould is longsuffering with Hawn appearing before his bench, but is both irritable while patient and somewhat lenient while remaining stern. Gould is wonderful in the role because he doesn’t overplay it. He had an amazing career with nearly 200 credits from all varieties of film from “The Sting” to “Freaky Friday” to something called “Flesh Suitcase” and was more prolific on TV with roles on shows diverse a “Petrocelli,” “Soap,” “The Rockford Files,” “Dallas” and “Nip/Tuck” in 2010 (the year of his death from prostate cancer).

When you add it all up, it still comes down to a simple result of good acting and Simon’s wonderful writing. “Seems Like Old Times’” ending is a bit trite, but you can forgive it (and watch so you’ll know – or remember – what it was).

Seems Like Old Times” was solid at 15th at the box office in 1980, with $43.9 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. It was right behind “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson and John Travolta’s “Urban Cowboy” and trailed far behind the No. 1 film: “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” with its $209.3 million at the box office. Here are the films from 1980 that I’ve reviewed for my blog:

Other cast notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Legendary actor Jack Lemmon’s son Chris plays a police officer here.
  • Yvonne Wilder plays housekeeper “Aurora de la Hoya” here and was also in “West Side Story” and Mel Brooks’ “Silent Movie.” To show how off base closed captioning can be, on Netflix her name is spelled “de la Jolla” (as in the city in southern California).
  • Chase had two other films released in 1980: the totally classic (but not then) “Caddyshack” and “Oh Heavenly Dog.”
  • Seems Like Old Times” is the only film directed by Sandrich, whose career has been in television.
  • Marsha Mason and Burt Reynolds were touted early as leads in the film before Hawn and Chase got the parts.
  • This is a rare Simon effort that was written for the screen and not adapted by him from one of his plays. Simon has been nominated for four Oscars over a career spanning an incredible eight decades. He will turn 90 on his next birthday: July 4, 2017.
  • Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “One of eleven movies made by writer Neil Simon and producer Ray Stark. The films, most made at Rastar Pictures with film studio Columbia, include Murder by Death (1976), The Cheap Detective (1978), California Suite (1978), Chapter Two (1979), The Sunshine Boys (1975), Seems Like Old Times (1980), The Goodbye Girl (1977), The Slugger’s Wife (1985), Brighton Beach Memoirs (1986), Biloxi Blues (1988) and Lost in Yonkers (1993). The production of Seems Like Old Times (1980) marked the seventh teaming of writer Simon and filmmaker Stark.”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2014-2016.
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without
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