Picks and Pans Review: That's Life!

updated 10/13/1986 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/1986 01:00AM

With three years left in the decade, it may be premature to label this emotional slop bucket from director Blake (Victor/ Victoria) Edwards the worst major movie of the '80s. But it's surely a strong contender—up there with Coppola's One From the Heart, De Palma's Scarface and Friedkin's Cruising—as the marker of a leading filmmaker's fall from success into wretched excess. Edwards, a past master at comedy (Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther) and drama (Days of Wine and Roses), used his own midlife crisis as raw material. Working out of his Malibu beach house on a self-financed $1.5 million budget, he used a script he co-wrote with—and we don't make these things up—his analyst, Milton Wexler. Edwards even considered playing the lead, an architect coming apart just as his clan gathers to celebrate his 60th birthday. Instead, Edwards anointed his friend Jack Lemmon, who in lieu of a performance trots out a repertory of bughouse mannerisms that Tony Perkins might envy. Julie Andrews, the real life Mrs. Edwards, plays Lemmon's wife. Her real daughter, Emma Walton, and his real daughter, Jennifer Edwards, play two of their children. Their son is played by Chris Lemmon, Jack's real son. Lemmon's wife, Felicia Farr, has a role as a nympho fortune-teller. Sally Kellerman plays a scatterbrained neighbor: Her husband is the film's executive producer. The nepotism goes on and on, as does this loathsome movie. Trapped with this self-pitying bunch, any sensible houseguest would dive out a window and swim for Catalina. Lemmon thinks he's impotent, until the fortune-teller lifts his spirits and leaves him with crab lice (his squirming in church is used as an alleged source of humor). Lemmon whines that he'll never be Frank Lloyd Wright. The unmarried daughter (Walton) whines about her uncaring boyfriend. The pregnant daughter (Edwards) whines because her vain dad doesn't want the baby to call him grandfather. Mercifully, Andrews doesn't whine; she suffers in silence while awaiting results of her throat biopsy (an alleged source of suspense). There hasn't been a more repugnant crowd since the last Friday the 13th picture, and this time Jason isn't handy to dispatch the worst offenders. Edwards has said making this film helped cure his depression. If so, he did it by transferring his ailment to his audience. (PG-13)

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