Things To Do

'And So It Goes' (PG-13)

A movie as generic as its title, And So It Goes is about a cranky old man who gets to know and help a child in need and becomes a happier, better person. Yes, I know. I gagged a little when I wrote that, too.

Rob Reiner directed And So It Goes, so it’s not entirely unwatchable. But the movie is a closer relation to Rumor Has It ... and Alex & Emma (two of his godawful romantic comedies) than it is to When Harry Met Sally (his great romantic comedy). Every decent idea — pairing Michael Douglas as a romantic foil for the age-appropriate Diane Keaton, for example — is countered by a not-so-decent one (the entire script).

Douglas stars as Oren Little, an obnoxious real-estate agent living in one of the units of a small apartment building he owns (he’s trying to sell his fancy Connecticut mansion). He’s a jerk to his tenants, particularly his nice next-door-neighbor Leah (Keaton), an aspiring singer. There are reasons for Oren’s bad behavior, and they are time-honored crappy movie cliches: He misses his dead wife (he talks to her headstone), and he’s estranged from his drug-addict son, who embarrassed Oren by falling down at his mother’s funeral.

Then the son shows up, clean and sober — and on the way to prison for nine months (his name doesn’t matter; he’s entirely inconsequential except as a means to an end). In the meantime, he needs Oren to look after his daughter Sarah (Sterling Jerins). Never terribly interested in doing anybody a favor, Oren dumps Sarah on the kind-hearted Leah and tries his best to keep his distance. You know the drill: Sarah will eventually melt this grumpy old man’s heart.

There’s never any doubt Oren will also manage to become a human being with whom Leah might want to spend time, which is perfectly fine — that’s the whole point of most romantic comedies. What’s odd is the circuitous route screenwriter Mark Andrus (Georgia Rule, As Good As It Gets) takes to get him there. At one point, Oren delivers one of the neighbors’ babies, a completely unnecessary scene designed, I suppose, to show us how he has changed. What it feels like, though, is that Reiner was trying to pad out the running time to a respectable length.

The director himself shows up as the nice but goofy guy in a bad toupee who plays piano for Leah at the local cafe (he also hopes to date her). While his appearance draws a few chuckles, it’s also a reminder that when the funniest thing in a movie is a hairpiece, you’re in trouble.

Cast: Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton, Rob Reiner, Sterling Jerins.

Director: Rob Reiner.

Screenwriter: Mark Andrus.

A Clarius release. Running time: 94 minutes. Some sexual references and drug elements. Playing at: area theaters.