"Amiable Comedy Celebrates Christmas on the Side"
JUST GETTING STARTED is a breezy, entertaining comedy about two testy, outgoing retired men, who vie for a woman’s affection during Christmas time in a game of one-upmanship at a resort for retired folks, where one of the men is secretly under federal witness protection. It’s fun to watch Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones go at it in JUST GETTING STARTED under the professional direction of Ron Shelton, but the movie contains plenty of PG-13 foul language and some occasional lewd behavior along with its male heroics and positive, overt Christmas references to the Birth of Jesus, King of Kings.
The movie opens with a mobster’s wife calling someone to kill Morgan Freeman’s character, Duke Diver, who she sees in an ad for a Palm Springs desert resort for retirees called Villa Capri. Serving as a federal witness, Duke apparently put her husband in jail, so the wife wants revenge.
Meanwhile, at Villa Capri, Duke is the Big Kahuna. Not only does he manage the resort and its activities for the retirees, he’s also having affairs with at least three of the resort’s most desirable single females among the retirees. Into Duke’s world steps Leo, a rich entrepreneur and ex-military man played by Tommy Lee Jones. Leo immediately irks Duke when he takes Duke’s parking spot with his big, shiny red truck. Then, at Duke’s weekly poker game with his male friends, Leo wins Duke’s $5,000 stake. Also, Leo seems smitten with a pretty new female arrival named Suzie, played by Rene Russo. So, Duke decides to try to steal her away from Duke’s romantic advances.
The game is now on. However, things take a turn when Duke survives two attempts on his life. Duke also learns that Suzie actually was sent by the company that owns Villa Capri to find a good reason to fire Duke.
Can Duke keep his job? Even more importantly, can Duke keep his life?
It’s a joy to watch Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones try to outdo one another in JUST GETTING STARTED. With Rene Russo as the focus of their attention, the movie has assembled a nearly perfect combination. In one sequence, Duke challenges Leo to a golf contest, where Duke shows off for the ladies watching by playing one handed. In another sequence, they try to best one another in the game room by playing five different games, including chess, ping pong and limbo(!). Director Ron Shelton (BULL DURHAM, WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP and TIN CUP) provides a sure professional hand on these proceedings in a way that reminds one of Clint Eastwood’s director abilities. He also inserts a lot of Christmas songs and carols into the story that sometimes point to Jesus. At one point, Leo and Duke joyously sing a good portion of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” with a tow truck driver. In another scene, Morgan Freeman starts to sing “Silent Night” before the camera cuts away from him. Shelton also shows his two male leads working together to defeat the assassin sent to kill Duke. Another major positive message in the movie is the idea that your life doesn’t have to stop when you reach your golden years.
All that said, JUST GETTING STARTED could be funnier and a little more exciting. Also, in the middle of the movie, Shelton and his team forget about the plot involving the assassin. JUST GETTING STARTED also contains plenty of PG-13 foul language, plus a GD and one “f” word. It’s also clear in the beginning that Duke is sleeping with at least two of the three ladies who are part of what Duke’s friends describe as his “harem.” Finally, there are a couple lewd comical references. Counteracting this content is Leo’s character, who’s really only interested in one lady, the newly arrived Suzie, who reminds him of his late wife.
Thus, MOVIEGUIDE® is pleased with JUST GETTING STARTED’s fun, uplifting celebration of Christmas, including its overt insertion of reverential Christmas carols with strong references to the salvation that the birth of Jesus Chris brings. The foul language and innuendo in JUST GETTING STARTED warrant strong caution for adults, however, and extreme caution for teenagers, especially younger teenagers.
JUST GETTING STARTED is a breezy, entertaining comedy about two testy retired men who vie for a woman’s affection during Christmas at retirement resort. Morgan Freeman plays Duke Diver, the manager of the Palm Springs resort. An easygoing ladies’ man, Duke becomes irked by Leo McCabe, a new wealthy resident played by Tommy Lee Jones, who steals Duke’s thunder. Leo falls for a new resident named Suzie, played by Rene Russo, but Duke tries to steal her away. Also, someone’s apparently trying to kill Duke, who’s actually in the federal witness protection program.
It’s a joy to watch Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones try to outdo one another in JUST GETTING STARTED. Writer/Director Ron Shelton provides a sure-handed professional touch. Even better, he inserts some positive references to Christmas in the movie, including some Christmas carols with religious lyrics about Jesus. That said, the movie could be a little bit funnier and exciting. JUST GETTING STARTED also has plenty of PG-13 foul language and some innuendo. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises strong caution for adults and extreme caution for teenagers, especially younger teenagers.