If you are a Wiliiam Shater fanboy or girl, SENIOR MOMENT is the flick you’ve been waiting for. As an aging Lothario with a kooky sidekick (Christopher Lloyd), he oozes the Shatner brand of charm while skating through a predictable story about how Peter Pan finally grows up.
He plays Victor, a senior citizen in sun-drenched Palm Springs with a taste for nubile young ladies and a passion for his Porsche convertible. When we meet him, he’s not just tenderly washing this car, he’s talking dirty to it. It’s a good life of retirement. He’s the hero of his local bar, and a minor celebrity thanks to his career as a NASA pilot. As we get to know him, he hits on the model posing with him and the Porsche for a magazine cover and reveals his greatest fear to his pals back at the bar. That would be losing his license, which, of course, he does, as well as his beloved car, which the no-nonsense judge impounds just to remove temptation from Victor’s path. This is not because of failing eyesight of dodgy reflexes, but rather for the donuts he spins in front of a local café, sending the clientele scurrying.
Victor’s new lifestyle includes paying through the nose for cabs and walking in that sun-drenched desert climate. Busses, he announces after leaving the court case that left him license-less, are for losers. His first pedestrian foray leaves him seeking relief by sticking his head in a freeze. Little does he realize that the owner of the café he sent scurrying, Caroline (Jean Smart) is the concerned passerby who asks him if he’s alright. Nor does he recognize her later, when they meet cute on a bus after he drops his groceries on her and she makes fun of his honey buns. Naturally, romance blooms between the chastened Victor and the free-spirit that is Caroline. Further naturally there is confusion about her relationship with Diego (Esai Morales), a dashing local artist. Even further naturally, the little blue pill has an unexpected side-effect when the time comes for things to get serious between Victor and Caroline. The entire film is a series of such “naturallys” in a rapid succession that is more energizing than the story itself.
SENIOR MOMENT is blessed with some supporting characters that add interesting texture, from the cocky kid (Carlos Miranda), who eggs Victor on into his first run-in with the cops but ends up helping him solve a mystery that involves wire cutters and trespassing, to Don McManus as the lawyer in a cheap suit with an unorthodox method forgetting Victor’s license back.
Shatner has a way with the light-hearted fol-de-rol, evincing a skit-comic’s mastery of timing and self-aware playfulness, but when it comes to building a character arc, or, heaven forfend, serious introspection, he’s just going through the motions in a simulacrum with no emotional drive. Smart, by contrast, sparkles with sharp wit and emotional resonance, even as the energy of the film as a whole remains inert despite some clever camera angles. Harmless, even when it’s trying just a little too hard, the best that can be said about SENIOR MOMENT is that it gave everyone involved an excuse to get out of the house.