Lost in Yonkers is a carefully rendered, ultimately unexciting screen version of Neil Simon’s 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
Story of a domineering old woman’s tyranny over two generations of offspring is set in the summer of ’42. Tale begins as Eddie Krunitz (Jack Laufer) attempts to deposit his two sons with his mother, who lives above her Yonkers candy store and soda fountain. She is sufficiently tended to by her somewhat backward 36-year-old daughter Bella (Mercedes Ruehl), but she finally has little choice.
The two boys, 15-year-old Jay and Arty, two years younger, are bright, presentable, well-behaved kids, and much of the pleasure of the film lies in watching the alert, bright-eyed perfomances of Brad Stoll and Mike Damus. Still, they are susceptible to the brash appeal of their uncle Louie (Richard Dreyfuss), a small-time hood.
Simon has gently opened up the pic by adding a number of characters who didn’t appear in the play, and setting quite a few scenes outside the apartment and store. Despite this, the film still seems bound by its theatrical origins in the way everything is stated and spelled out. Performances by the leads could have been brought down a notch or two.