In LOST IN YONKERS, based on Neil Simon’s play, presents a hilarious and sometimes sorrowful array of diverse characters who come together to love, hate, or escape. Set in (1942) Yonkers, New York, Jay and Arty, two young boys whose mother has recently died, are forced to live with their stoic, but difficult Jewish grandmother for the summer while their father works in a scrap metal yard. The grandmother makes her home above a candy store and has a reputation for hitting her family with her cane. The boys are greeted by their Aunt Bella (Mercedes Ruehl)–a spacy remnant of a child caught in a woman’s body. Aunt Bella lives with her mother, and she has been ensnared by her mother’s strict control. Jay and Arty adore Bella, because she offers solace in the midst of bitter chaos. Aunt Gert offers comic relief because she makes humorous sounds when she speaks. Meanwhile, Uncle Louie (Richard Dreyfuss), a local thug, teaches the boys how to play cards, steal and puff on his cigarette. When they help him escape from his enemies, they think they have accomplished something.
The artistic quality of this movie is excellent. The conflict between the characters is intensified by the grandmother’s fascination for brutality. The movie contains insight into human nature. The characters are real, not stereotypical. The movie demonstrates how destructive bitterness is to a person’s life, and how it can defile many. Regrettably, the uncle is a poor role model for children.
(H, L, S, V, A/D, M) Humanist worldview; crude reference to male genitalia, eight profanities & one obscenity; man steals from his mother's store; man hits boy in the face; shoot-out with gangsters, no one is killed; man kisses woman & both fall to the ground, with man on top--fully clothed; one character believes that crime pays & that each person has to make a "splash" in life or be forgotten; and children are taught to steal & smoke cigarettes.