Rob Reiner established himself as a director with a string of first-rate comedies. His deftness at getting a laugh never translated strongly to drama, and that holds true for And So It Goes, his AARP dramedy written by Mark Andrus, whose previous credits include the Lindsay Lohan/Jane Fonda vehicle Georgia Rule, a strained mix of sitcom jokes and familial dysfunction that this movie sadly resembles.
Michael Douglas stars as Oren Little, an upstate-New York realtor who has turned forcibly crusty since his wife died of cancer. Oren lives alone in one of four apartments inside a "quadplex" he owns, and his attitude toward his tenants is, at best, dismissive. His goal is to sell his home for a few million so that he can retire to Vermont, but his plans go awry when his estranged ex-junkie son shows up with news that he has to go to jail, and he needs Oren to care for his daughter.
Oren resists the responsibilities at first, but gets help from one of his neighbors, Leah (Diane Keaton), an aspiring nightclub singer and widow who still breaks into uncontrollable crying jags whenever she thinks of her ex-husband -- which is a problem when she tells stories about him during her act. Eventually, his granddaughter and Leah melt Oren's cold heart, and he learns to let love back into his life.
The first time we see Oren, he shoots a dog with a paint gun, letting you know how lazy the script is that they're willing to dip to canine abuse in order to establish the fact that the lead character is a bona-fide, world-class jerk. Throw in potty-mouthed tykes, as well as a tart-tongued Frances Sternhagen as Oren's only friend, and you're left with good actors trapped with thin roles, heart-tugging close-ups of a crying child, and a tired premise.
Barely having enough story to get to through his glacially paced 94-minute running time, Reiner gives us two full singing performances by Diane Keaton, who won an Oscar nearly 40 years earlier for crooning a few standards in Annie Hall. Twelve years after that movie, Reiner borrowed heavily from Woody Allen's masterpiece to kick off the age of the modern romantic comedy with When Harry Met Sally. Twenty-five years after Harry, Reiner finally gets to direct Keaton himself, and Leah fumfers and sings just as Annie did. If there was anything decent in the script for And So It Goes, such blatant references to the past might have worked, but instead nearly all of Keaton's scenes magnify how vast a gap exists between Reiner's current work and his past accomplishments. The movie might make you weep, but not for the reasons it intends.