Pic is a romanticized, Anglicized variant on [Vittorio De Sica’s 1952 Italian classic] Umberto D, with Peter Sellers playing an aging vaudevillian whose meager income derives from sidewalk minstrelling with his equally-weary trained mutt. He tentatively befriends an eleven-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother, opening their poverty-clouded eyes to a world of magical dreams while they offer him the blessing of human contact.
It all sounds like goo, and the film’s last half-hour verges perilously close. But even at its worst The Optimists is acceptable family fare, and for much of its first 80 minutes it engagingly achieves a sense of fantasy.
Director-coscripter Anthony Simmons (on whose novel The Optimists of Nine Elms screenplay is based) obviously understands and relishes the unique world of childhood.