When I started to play around with the idea of writing the Random Movie Review I made a list of movies to review in effort to see what kind of films I’d be working with. The list out of the gate was about 10 deep represented by varied genres. The initial list went through a bunch of edits and was eventually trashed and totally redone, yet one film always remained. It was the film that I initially thought of doing first but I kept pushing it off for a down the road review. Well, we are officially down the road and due to recent events the timing is both perfect and bittersweet.
Recently Hollywood lost a good one. Charles Grodin was one of the best at playing the straight guy in comedic films. He made a living at it for 50 years. I first became a Grodin fan as a kid after watching The Incredible Shrinking Woman where he played opposite a legendary comedic actress in Lily Tomlin. That movie was in constant rotation in the early days of Home Box Office(HBO or HBO Max or whatever its called these days) and although the film was not a huge success outside of the living room at 35 Lohnes Rd in Framingham, I thought Grodin was great. Then I saw 1978’s Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty where Grodin actually plays a bad guy opposite Dyan Cannon and was a fan for life. Later in life once I got pubes, my first kiss and the Sport Magazine swimsuit issue with Lisa Hartman on the cover I would finally see Grodin’s two true classics Midnight Run and The Heartbreak Kid. He was great in the ’76 version of King Kong with Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange and I loved it when I saw him appear in The Great Muppet Caper. Since I was still a kid when that came out I felt that I had hitched my fandom to a winning wagon in being a Grodin fan now that he was on the big screen with THE MUPPETS!!! As much as I loved the aforementioned Grodin films none are this edition’s of the Random Movie Review. I mentioned in the open that one film had made the cut of several initial edits of a list of movies I’d look at here. It was originally going to be the one I started with but I guess timing is everything. And so, without further adieu, on this edition of the Random Movie Review we look at the 1980 comedy Seems Like Old Times starring Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and the man of the hour, Charles Grodin.
With a screenplay written by the legendary Neil Simon(Barefoot In The Park, The Odd Couple, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Lost In Yonkers) as an homage to comedies of old Hollywood, Seems Like Old Times reunites a popular onscreen couple of the day in Chase & Hawn. The two scored a hit in 1978’s Foul Play which is a personal fave of mine. The Dudley Moore dancing scene in that movie is as epic as the Ted Striker Stayin’ Alive dance sequence in Airplane!. Oddly enough both scenes used the same Bee Gees hit. Guessing the Zucker brothers were paying a little homage to Foul Play in that one.
Chase plays a down-on-his-luck writer who get’s kidnapped by two crooks who force him to rob a bank. His face gets caught on security cameras (yes, they had security cameras in the 70s) and now he’s a wanted man. Chase’s character finds shelter in the most obvious of places for a wanted man…his ex-wife’s garage. His ex-wife, played by the playfully lovely Goldie Hawn, just happens to be a local public defender who just so happens to be married to the district attorney played by the late Charles Grodin. These circumstances lay the groundwork for a handful of comically ridiculous scenes. The dinner scene towards the end of the film is classic Chevy Chase. Chris Farley fans may get a little “Fat Man in a Little Coat” vibe while Richard Pryor fans may get a hint of the scene from The Toy when Pryor’s character comically serves a corporate lunch to Jackie Gleason.
Grodin is great as the super straight laced D.A., there are scenes where you can just tell he’s having fun amidst the chaotic comedy of Chase & Hawn. At the time of Seems Like Old Times Grodin’s career was going pretty well. Still riding the high of Heaven Can Wait with Incredible Shrinking Woman, The Great Muppet Caper and The Woman In Red on the horizon. Goldie Hawn was coming fresh off the success of Private Benjamin when Seems Like Old Times came out and rode that success to put out films like Best Friends with Burt Reynolds, Protocol, Wildcats and Overboard with longtime and current life partner Kurt Russell. For Chevy Chase, Seems Like Old Times was the start of a three film run where he was trying to recapture the success of Caddyshack. Obviously I like the film but critics were on the fence which is better then what they thought of Chase’s next two films, Under The Rainbow with Carrie Fischer and Modern Problems with Dabney Coleman. Chase would eventually rebound with the 1983 classic Nation Lampoon’s Vacation.
Well, there are more than Chase, Hawn & Grodin in Seems Like Old Times so let’s take a peek at the supporting cast.
BENSON! Yes, Robert Guillaume (Soap, Lean On Me, A Different World) who delighted television audiences in the late 70s and early 80s on Soap and Benson is classic, well, Robert Guillaume in this film as Grodin’s close friend and confidant. Alongside Guillaume are a few names you may not recognize but their faces will make you say “Oh yeah, that guy!”. Harold Gould (The Sting, Patch Adams and several episodes of The Golden Girls), George Grizzard (Bachelor Party, Flags of Our Fathers and a few episodes of The Golden Girls) and T.K. Carter (The Thing-1980, Domino, no appearances on Golden Girls but was on a bunch of episodes of Punky Brewster). Guillaume, Gould, Grizzard and Carter are all staples of American television over the past sixty years as quality professional character actors.
So that’s Seems Like Old Times and Man does it seem like this film was made a long time ago. Well, it was. Its from a totally different time in Hollywood, a totally different time in America. Is the film a little dated? Yes. Is this Neil Simon’s best work? No, but Its a fun film that I’ve seen a bunch of times and now that Grodin has passed its one that will always mean just a bit more to me for years to come.
Seems Like Old Times can currently be seen on STARZ. Enjoy!