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Tribeca 2017: Dog Years

by Jason Adams

You can’t look back at the film career of Burt Reynolds and not get a lot of stink in your eye. For every Boogie Nights there’s at least two Stripteases; for every Cannonball Run there’s… another Cannonball Run.

Dog Years, which stars Burt as a Reynolds-ian movie star so past his prime he’s composite, attempts to bridge the gap between quality and its opposite with some erratic shifts in tone – one second it’s an unblinking portrait of the 80-plus year realities of Burt Reynolds face, and the next it’s a broad goof with pratfalls. I prefer the former tone, but I get the latter – the latter makes sense with who Burt Reynolds has been for forty years on our screens...

Burt plays Vic Edwards, who was a huge star in the 1970s – we see lots of recycled footage of Burt on talk shows, and some movie scenes too (here and there they even CG Old Burt into his old films to have a conversation with Young Burt, which is as unsettling as it sounds) – and who only gets recognized now by a decidedly more middle-aged clientele. The film opens with the aforementioned hard glare at Burt’s Face and what’s become of it – it’s admittedly a shock (Burt has always been a vain one) and you settle in for an Oscar Bid type of movie about the hard realities of aging out of favor; a one-man Feud.

Dog Years is not that serious; it feels more in line with the quirk of Lily Tomlin’s Grandma than the devastation of Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi. Out of nowhere Vic receives an invite to a hometown film festival that is feting him and his career, and on a lark he decides to go, and suddenly surrounded by bumbling millennial film-fans he finds his history deconstructed before his eyes.

But in a sitcommy way. There are lots of long drives to former haunts where folks are characters in capital letters, and lessons learned - everybody is a better somebody by the end, and the curtain falls on kisses earned. It’s not disagreeable – only in watching the movie did I realize what a big part of my life the career of Burt Reynolds has played; I probably learned a lot about Man Stuff watching him banter with Sally Field in Smokey and the Bandit, for better or (probably) worse.

But Burt’s always been willing to under-cut all that jazz too  - I know I learned a lot about Man Stuff looking at Burt sprawled out naked across that fur rug in Cosmopolitan magazine. He’s been a fascinating figure in entertainment for decade after decade, and doing some ruminating on him and his legacy, even in such broad strokes as there, is its own sort of deliverance.

Dog Years plays at Tribeca at 2:45 PM Sun (4/23), 9:00 PM Tues (4/25), 4:45 PM Wed (4/26), 3:15 PM Sun (4/30)

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