Grade: C+/B-
Entire family: No
2019, 90 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for some language and sexual references
STX / Universal
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: D
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital
Amazon link

In recent years, Hollywood has made a number of movies featuring (and presumably geared toward) seniors. We’ve watched retirement-age heroes take road trips, thwart a mob hit, get off their rockers to take on super assassins, reconnect with estranged children, rob a bank, and now, with Poms, find new life in a retirement community through cheerleading.

But the message is often the same: No regrets. Worry about living, not dying. Play hard and enjoy all nine innings.

In Poms, Diane Keaton and Jacki Weaver are wonderful to watch as neighbors in an active retirement commuity, and so, for that matter, is their nemesis Celia Weston (who played Cam’s mom on Modern Family), who rules with all the force of a 12-person condo association. But the plot itself is cookie-cutter, and the basic premise is a bit of a head-scratcher.

I mean, if you’ve been an unmarried, childless teacher living in the same apartment in New York City for 40+ years and you learned that you’re dying of ovarian cancer, would you sell everything you own at a sidewalk sale and buy a home in a Georgia retirement community that bills itself as “active”? Why buy a home in a brand new area surrounded by complete strangers when you have only months to live? Wouldn’t you rent until you had to go into hospice?

Or maybe that’s the point. We’re all dying, but at different rates. Instead of sitting around waiting for it to happen, get out of your comfort zone and do something to feel alive again and take your mind off of the inevitable. That’s not a bad message. In fact, it probably deserves a plot all its own, instead of a clichéd structure that starts with the main character deciding to start or reactivate a club or band or put together some sort of show to save something, then follow up with the obligatory “tryouts” montage, then footage of failures along the way, a crisis of some sort, and, finally, the triumphant feel-good performance that saves the day . . . or comes close enough to make a difference. We’ve seen this plot so many times with younger casts that it’s not even close to fresh.

But as I said, the saving grace of Poms is the relationship that develops between Martha (Keaton), the uptight newcomer to this senior community, and Sheryl (Weaver), the wild and crazy neighbor who’s into dating younger men and lives a life that’s a little more “active” than the brochure advertised. She’s the free spirit who pulls Martha out of her funk, and then it’s Martha who finds new purpose in life. And that’s a message that any viewer can take to the bank, whether what remains of your life is years or decades. But another artificial plot device is that Sheryl’s grandson (Charlie Tahan) lives with her, if only for the purpose of matching up with a young cheerleader (Alisha Boe) in an attempt to broaden the audience beyond seniors. There’s always a defector—in this case that high school cheerleader who thinks her young friends are talking too much trash about these sincere old ladies and agrees to help them—well, after she’s blackmailed (“You’re one of us now. Except for higher boobies.”).

Nothing in life changes much. Former cheerleader and probably mean girl Vicki (Weston), who’s the senior community prima donna, still has her suck-up entourage who nod in agreement with everything she says. And regardless of location, the community’s security Chief Carl (Bruce McGill) is as familiar a trope as Barney Fifte was in Mayberry—a sometimes gung-ho but generally nice guy who really doesn’t have as much authority as he’d like to think he does. It’s kind of hilarious that his “deputy” here is an old woman who rides shotgun in their official golf cart (Carol Sutton as Ruby).

There are at least a half dozen genuinely funny moments in this film, with one of them coming when a high school mean girl quips “Break a hip” when the old cheerleaders are ready to go onstage and no-filter Sheryl retorting, “Get pregnant.”

Unlike band or cheerleading or dance movies where the performances are kind of amazing, what we watch these seniors do is not all that interesting to watch and far less amazing than the fact that they’re doing it at all. While the characters themselves are sincerely portrayed and threaten to burst the bonds of their “types,” they really did deserve a more original script.

Language: These old gals have a bit of a potty mouth, and there’s at least one f-bomb and what seems like an abundance of other swearwords—more shocking because of the surprise factor that it comes out of the mouths of these older women

Sex: Lots of sex talk and innuendo (“Oh, we’re talking about erections now?”) but nothing shown and no physical action implied onscreen—only referred to

Violence: Nothing here to single out

Adult Situations: There is drinking and some smoking

Takeaway: When you get a consummate pro like Keaton and give her a good supporting cast, they can almost rescue a tired screenplay . . . almost