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Last Chance Harvey (PG-13) **½

By Connie Ogle, The Miami Herald

There are filmgoers who — go figure — don’t care for violence or action, who cringe at salty language and find sex scenes distasteful. They won’t tolerate even the glimpse of a breast or the disturbing aspects of chase scenes, monsters or gunfire. They might enjoy a dysfunctional family film such as Rachel Getting Married, if only the characters weren’t so faulty and earthy and, in some cases, downright unlikable.

Last Chance Harvey is the movie to which you send these gentle souls, a Before Sunrise for the baby boomer generation. This sweet if unremarkable romance stars Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, and though the story doesn’t quite live up to the cast’s pedigree, it at least provides the rare pleasure of a blossoming romance between two people older than Kate Hudson or Ryan Reynolds.

Hoffman manages to be pushy and appealing as Harvey Shine, a jingle writer on the verge of losing his job who travels to London for his daughter’s wedding. The occasion should be joyous, but Harvey has abdicated his fatherly duties for awhile now, ceding them to his daughter’s step-father (James Brolin); disappointments pile up.

Harvey meets Kate (Thompson) at an airport bar after missing his plane home. Intrigued by the way she speaks her mind and possibly those cheekbones to die for, he insinuates himself into her day. We might call his behavior stalking if Harvey were the least bit creepy, but he’s not (although, to be honest, for some reason we’re in no big hurry for these two to smooch, usually the entire point of a romantic comedy). There’s some spark in Harvey that indicates he’s not the sad sack he appears to be. Lonely, stuck in a boring job and slave to her ever-ringing cellphone, Kate responds to his attention.

So far so good, but Last Chance Harvey loses its focus by straying into a ridiculous, quickly dropped subplot about Kate’s snoopy mother (the great Eileen Atkins, utterly wasted here). Filmmaker Joel Hopkins even indulges in the unforgivable: a completely unnecessary shopping montage in which Harvey buys Kate a dress in which to crash the wedding, the sour legacy of Pretty Woman and Sex and the City that reminds us that women can be easily captivated by shiny objects and/or nice clothes. Really, Hopkins should stick with what’s working: telling a simple romantic story. Harvey — persistent, brave and forthright — could have told him that.

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker

Director/screenwriter: Joel Hopkins

Producers: Tim Perell, Nicola Usborne

An Overture release. Running time: 92 minutes. Brief strong language. Playing at area theaters.

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