The Boston Herald
April 4, 1997 | Verniere, James
Carl Reiner’s “That Old Feeling” is “The First Wives Club” minus two. Bette Midler, who was delightfully funny as one of three vengeful ex-wives in “The First Wives Club,” goes it alone here. She and Dennis Farina play an unhappily unmarried couple. Divorced and currently espoused to the people they respectively blame for their breakup, Lily and Dan haven’t spoken for 14 years and “hate each other with a nuclear capability.” But they are reunited at the wedding of their beautiful daughter Molly (Paula Marshall) to a stiff-necked, uptight Republican candidate for Congress (Jamie Denton).
Lily is a famous actress whose recent weight problem was publicly chronicled by Joey (Danny Nucci), a boyish and swarthily handsome tabloid photographer. Lily’s current spouse is Alan (David Rasche), a pop psychologist and author of “The Tao of Divorce.” Among other self-help techniques, Alan recommends “grabbing your gremlin.” Dan, a journalist, is married to Rowena (Gail O’Grady formerly of “NYPD Blue”), a shallow, plastic-surgery-addicted trophy wife and interior decorator credited with inventing the “Greek revival look.”
Of course, when Dan and Lily are thrown together, tongues lash, sparks fly and blows are landed. But the vituperation suddenly turns into intense physical desire, and Dan and Lily find themselves engaged in a love affair, much to the dismay of their daughter and her image-conscious new husband and, of course, of their respective current spouses.
Reiner (“The Jerk,” “The Man With Two Brains“) is a Mozart of comic orchestration, and his unerring ear for timing and rhythm hasn’t abandoned him here. Moreover, he has assembled a terrific cast for this farce about the pitfalls and pratfalls of middle-aged passion.
Farina (“Get Shorty”) usually plays cops or gangsters, but he seems as comfortable with punchlines as punches, and he and Midler have chemistry to spare (When Midler sings “Somewhere Along the Way” to Farina, she really seems to mean it). Nucci (“The Rock”), who must have the lowest hairline in the business, sounds like Joe Pesci and seems to straddle the fence between matinee idol and missing link. The priceless Rasche (TV’s “Sledge Hammer”) is hilarious as the self-absorbed, self-help guru who can’t help offering advice, even to his three, miniature poodles.
Marshall, however, is this film’s real find. Tall, graceful, gorgeous and, most amazing of all, a master of reactions shots, she’s Julia Roberts with talent. But producer-screenwriter Leslie Dixon, whose credits include “Overboard” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” has jammed so many annoying contrivances into “That Old Feeling” that the film almost wears out its welcome, even with this cast.
When Dan and Lily lock Molly up with Joey in a New York City hotel room on her wedding night, you may wonder what these parents and filmmakers were thinking, if anything. When Molly and Joey then break the ice by tossing fruit off their upper- floor balcony, you may be tempted to toss something else. Idiot plot twists like this can break a comedy’s back, even one with as much going for it as “That Old Feeling.”