Returning Mickey Stern

2003, Movie, PG-13, 93 mins


Michael Prywes's debut feature has two interesting things going for it. First, several supporting roles were cast via an online gimmick through which users could view audition tapes and vote for their actor or actress of choice. And second, it was mostly shot on Long Island's picturesque barrier beach, Fire Island. Sadly, they're the only two things worth noting about this amateurish production. Sixty-seven-year-old Mickey Stern (Joseph Bologna) and his childhood friend, Harry (Tom Bosley, whose Yiddish accent wouldn't be out of place in an amateur production of Fiddler on the Roof), have returned to the fashionably rustic seaside community to collect the belongings of Mickey's late wife Leah, who recently died of lung cancer. Mickey hasn't set foot on the island in 50 years, not since the summer a 17-year-old Mickey (played by Joshua Fishbein in a series of flat, black-and-white flashbacks), then a major league hopeful, and Leah ( winner Kylie Delre) first met. They fell in love but went their separate ways after Labor Day, Leah to college and Mickey to war in Korea. Nearly five decades later, Mickey and Leah met once again and, finally admitting that they were meant to be together all along, got married. A year after their wedding, Leah was gone for good. Grief-stricken and despondent over the wasted decades they could have spent together, Mickey can't wait to leave the island, but gets a huge shock when, at the local market, he encounters Ilana (also Delre), a young woman who's the spitting image of teenaged Leah. Compounding Mickey's sense of déjà-vu is market-clerk Michael (also Fishbein), who's not only a dead ringer for Mickey's 17-year-old self, but shares his birthday as well. Convinced that history is about to repeat itself and determined that Michael and Ilana shouldn't make the same mistake he and Leah made 50 years earlier, Mickey contrives to throw these two strangers together and make sure they stay together. Dumb premises have driven some wonderful romantic comedies, but for all its vaguely mystical trappings, Prywes's film lacks the magic that makes them work. Far from being charming, there's something grotesque about a desperate older man playing matchmaker to a pair of young would-be lovers, then peering at them from behind bushes and pumping each for the intimate details of their trysts. Fire Island's considerable charm completely escapes the camera while the performances suggests that casting is a job best left to trained professionals. Connie Stevens and Renee Taylor, Bologna's real-life wife, put in all-too-brief and thankless appearances. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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