[Screen It]


(2019) (Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver) (PG-13)

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Dramedy: A terminally ill woman tries to put together a competitive cheerleading squad at the retirement community where she's just moved.
Having lived in the same city apartment for the past forty-six years, Martha (DIANE KEATON) is in for a culture shock when she relocates to the Sun Springs retirement community. She's moved there to live out her last days, what with having cancer that she's decided not to treat anymore, and she's hoping for some peace and solitude and not having to join one of the one-hundred-plus clubs community director Vicki (CELIA WESTON) informs her is mandatory.

Martha initially isn't pleased to have Sheryl (JACKI WEAVER) as her next-door neighbor, what with her late-night noisiness and repeated intrusions into Martha's life. But Sheryl eventually gets Martha to let down her guard and learns that she once wanted to be a cheerleader, but gave that up when her mother became sick. With her now in that same end-of-life boat, Martha decides she's going to create her own cheerleading club and Sheryl agrees to join but only if Martha teaches Sheryl's teenage son Ben (CHARLIE TAHAN), who secretly lives with her against the rules, how to drive.

Vicki hates the cheerleading club idea and informs them they need to meet a minimum participant number, and thus Martha and Sheryl hold tryouts and end up admitting Alice (RHEA PERLMAN), Olive (PAM GRIER), Ruby (CAROL SUTTON), Evelyn (GINNY MacCOLL), Phyllis (PATRICIA FRENCH), and Helen (PHYLLIS SOMERVILLE) into their club, even if the latter's adult son is against the idea.

When a mishap at a local high school pep rally allows Vicki to force a vote to shut down the club, they can't participate in a community contest. Despite all hope seemingly now lost, Martha persuades high school cheerleader Chloe (ALISHA BOE) to be their coach and get them ready for a big cheerleading competition where they'll definitely be the oldest competitors.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Lots of stand-up comedians -- at least those above a certain age -- have done various forms of the "you know you're getting old when" joke that audiences -- as long as that's ditto for the age bit -- can relate to and hopefully laugh at. For yours truly, it's now complaining about the newer music not being as good as it was decades ago, kids (and young adults) being glued to their smartphones in public (including crossing streets without looking up), and some sort of inherent desire to yell "Get off my lawn" even if no one is there.

But one of the biggest "Man, I'm getting old" feelings -- aside from looking in the mirror or especially at photos of myself -- comes from realizing that while watching a film that's targeted at the "Golden Girls" demographic that I'm now closer in age to those folks than those decades younger than me and for whom today's action films and comedies are intended.

At least that means I'm closer to getting a senior discount on movie tickets. Oh wait. I already get in free as a movie reviewer. Ah, the memory is going too. If that's the case, hopefully that will help with the aftermath of watching "Poms," a dramedy mostly intended for people 65 and older and one I'd pretty much rather forget.

I have no idea how old writer/director Zara Hayes or co-writer Shane Atkinson are, but I'm guessing likely not of the same generation of the majority of the cast members here. And that's because much -- but not all -- of what's present feels like a younger person's idea of what being a senior citizen is like and what sort of comedy might be derived from that type of "observation." Meaning it sometimes -- but not always -- feels like it's making fun of these ladies of a certain age rather than laughing along with them from a shared experience of what it's like to be of that age.

Throw in an overall sitcom-type vibe, some otherwise forced humor and the fact that you'll constantly be thinking of a mashup of "The Golden Girls" with the cheerleader flick "Bring It On" from a while back and the result really isn't worth -- sorry, couldn't resist -- cheering for or about.

Reportedly based on the true story of the Sun City Poms -- a group of women who created a cheerleading squad back in 1979 to support the local softball team -- the film begins with a woman, Martha (Diane Keaton), who's facing a terminal cancer diagnosis and has decided to move out of her big city apartment (where she's lived for 46 years), sell all of her possessions, and relocate to a retirement community in Georgia.

There, she not only meets the southern belle style community director (Celia Weston), but also a neighbor (Jacki Weaver) who doesn't like to live by the rules -- including having her teenage grandson (Charlie Tahan) live with her despite being around four decades too early for the place -- and likes to butt into Martha's home, personal space and life.

They eventually become friends and having been informed by Vicki that she must join one of the community's one-hundred plus clubs or create one of her own, she decides she'll do the latter and pick up some unfinished business from her teens years -- yes, becoming a cheerleader.

But she's needs eight members to form the group and so -- cue the first of many montages -- there's a tryout sequence where we meet those who are brave (and physically capable) enough to join (that include seniors played by the likes of Rhea Perlman, Pam Grier and others). The challenges they face -- beyond age, arthritis, and gravity -- stem from Vicky wanting to shut them down (but not that creatively on the part of the script), one's adult son falling into the same boat (also with little storytelling inspiration) and some mean girl high school cheerleader types who mock those old enough to be their grandmothers.

From that latter group, however, comes one such teen (Alisha Boe) who has a change of heart and decides to help the ladies compete in a competition outside the community and thus the montages just keep coming. I'll admit there are some nice moments here and there and the cancer subplot keeps things grounded enough that goofy matter don't get out of hand.

I suppose it's possible those slightly older than me -- and of the opposite gender -- will enjoy or at least appreciate having some demographic representation of those similar to them up on the screen. I just wish the overall offering were better than what's been delivered. Or worthy of a rah-rah or sis-boom-bah. Now get off my lawn and turn that music down! "Poms" rates as a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 8, 2019 / Posted May 10, 2019

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