William Shatner, who in real life recently turned 90, should be commended for playing the lead in any feature film. That said, Senior Moment, a bit of cinematic fluff directed by Giorgio Serafini, is not the best vehicle for him to show off his acting chops. The script is not developed sufficiently for him or the rest of the cast to develop characters that rise much above two-dimensional stereotypes.
The story is about Victor Martin (Shatner, “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous”), a 70-something, former NASA test pilot, who tools around Palm Springs in his vintage Porsche, trying to flirt with comely young women. Often accompanied by his buddy Sal (Christopher Lloyd, “Going in Style”), the two senior citizens live in a co-dependent relationship in which they attempt to create a bubble to fool Father Time, but pathetically fail at it. Victor ends up losing his license after challenging a young Latino to a drag race. This leads to the first major plot point, which shows Martin determined to gain back his beloved wheels while adjusting to life as a pedestrian — dolefully walking back from the supermarket with bags of groceries in tow as he watches life whiz by in sunny Palm Springs. But even with Lloyd’s companionship, which could had had the potential to liven up the screen as Shatner’s oddball trusty sidekick, the relationship doesn’t go very far because both actors are hampered by a tired premise and underdeveloped characters. Senior Moment is billed as a romantic comedy, but it is too anemic to break out of its paint-by-number script.
Sometimes the over-the-hill, fish out of water scenario works. But it’s most successful as farce, as in Rodney Dangerfield’s “Back to School,” but the story here — what there is of it — takes predictable turns without the requisite wide-eyed humor. The saving grace among the acting leads is veteran TV and film actor Jean Smart (“The Accountant”), who plays Caroline Summers, a level-headed, good-natured café owner. Smart succeeds at exuding a warmth that is lacking in the rest of the portrayals. But even her presence can’t save the ill-begotten film. The rest of the plot involves a mysterious cuckoo clock that’s affixed to the café wall, broken for decades, but brought back to life by Lloyd’s mechanical skills with Shatner standing by to take credit.
Now, with Victor, the erstwhile playboy, proving his worth as a “can-do” senior citizen, he embarks on acting his age to win over Summers the old-fashioned way: By being the reserved, sincere gentleman who has finally grown up. Another part of the story involves empathic Caroline’s efforts to save engendered sea tortoises (not “turtles” as Victor calls them), but this subplot doesn’t do the film any favors in bringing coherence to the budding romantic relationship between Victor and Caroline even though it’s used to demonstrate the former’s reformation as a past-his-prime narcissist.
Unfortunately, Senior Moment stays muddled because of a screenplay that walks a tightrope between the genres of broad comedy and sentimental romance. The film falls off the obstacle course way before reaching the other side. You might get some satisfaction in watching a pre-covid Southern California, where the sunshine is still unsullied by social distancing and universal mask wearing. If the film had bright spots besides the weather, it might have been a funny diversion — watching several veteran actors plying their craft. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t any to redeem the film or exploit the talents of its leads.