Targeted squarely at the over-65 set, “Never Too Late” is a feel-good comic-drama that goes out of its way to serve up an inspirational message about seniors. The tale of a group of retired friends who play amateur detectives in an attempt to trap a nasty old-folks-home director, the pic makes its pro-seniors point in an entertaining if somewhat formulaic fashion, and features a strong cast, including particularly spunky perfs from Cloris Leachman and vet Czech-born Canuck thesp Jan Rubes. “Never Too Late” is not likely to go far theatrically, but is ideally suited to play tube slots in North America and abroad. The shortage of quality fare for golden-age viewers will help sell pic internationally to TV and video buyers.
Light comic tone is set in the first scene, when Rose (Olympia Dukakis) and Joseph (Rubes) get into a testy but funny exchange as they watch their mutual friend Peter’s casket being lowered into the ground at the cemetery. Joseph and his pals Olive (Leachman) and Woody (Jean Lapointe) have lost the fourth member of their bridge foursome, and Rose is recruited to fill the vacated spot.
Joseph expects the managers of the Sunshine Manor retirement home, where Peter lived, to reimburse him for the cash he laid out for the send-off. But when Woody asks the center’s ill-tempered director, Carl O’Neal (Matt Craven), for the money, O’Neal tells him to take a hike and claims that Peter donated all his savings to the home.
It turns out that, awhile back, Woody had a nervous breakdown, and he signed over his power of attorney rights to O’Neal, so he can’t even control his own finances. The irascible Joseph, meanwhile, continues to joust verbally with Rose and nag his grandson Max (Corey Haim), a not-too-successful aspiring actor currently appearing in an S&M update of “Romeo and Juliet.”
Eventually, their suspicions aroused about the shady goings-on at Sunshine Manor, Olive and Joseph break into O’Neal’s office one night to comb through his files. The gray-haired sleuths discover that O’Neal has been lining his own bank account with the savings of gullible old folks. Film thus transforms into a caper pic at this point, with the friends dreaming up a complicated sting operation to catch O’Neal in the act.
Seasoned Montreal helmer Giles Walker, a former staffer at the National Film Board, maintains a nice balance of easygoing humor and drama spurred by the usual sixtysomething dilemmas, but Donald Martin’s script is simply not all that original.
Leachman is memorable as Olive, a spirited paraplegic lesbian who’s a computer whiz and hosts a local talkshow, and Rubes is a pleasure to watch as the cranky, penny-pinching Joseph. Craven is good as the slimy Sunshine Manor boss, though he takes the character’s hysterical personality a little far in the final section.
Tech credits are fine, though Normand Corbeil’s score pours on the sappy sentimentality way too thick.