'Mack & Rita' review: Seasoned cast struggle in confusing body switch comedy
Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures
Taking familiar beats from the Nancy Meyers catalog of romantic comedies minus the laughs, the confusing and tepid body swap comedy “Mack & Rita,” somehow coasting into theaters with a wide release, wastes a talented ensemble in favor of a story with several bizarre twists and turns.
Featuring acting legends Diane Keaton, Loretta Devine, Wendie Malick, Lois Smith, and Amy Hill alongside a cast of recognizable up and comers, Elizabeth Lail (“You”), Taylour Paige (“Zola”) and Dustin Milligan (“Schitt’s Creek”), it’s a wonder how director Kate Aselton’s movie completely fell apart. Obviously the humor skews older and I’m not in the targeted demographic, but “Mack and Rita” often conflicts with itself in the core messaging about being yourself no matter what age you are.
Writers Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh attempt to throw a clever spin on the body swap genre where instead of two people switching bodies: one of them goes from 30 to 70 thanks to a regressive tanning bed that’s run by, uh, Simon Rex? Such is the transformation Mack (Laill) inadvertently undergoes after complaining about being an “old soul trapped inside a young body” (an opening prologue tells us Mack idolized her grandmother and I guess that makes her want to be older). What was suppose to be a quick retreat to help unwind from the high levels of stress caused from work and planning her best friend's wedding (Paige), Mack, instead, stumbles out of her pod a grown women now played by Diane Keaton in a subdued performance that features plenty of high pitched squeals and annoying winces. Usually, when Keaton shows up, it’s a welcome addition to the story, but if all the material does is give her one-note characteristics (“My hair is gray?!”), why bother?
To her credit, Keaton seems up to the challenge playing Mack’s alter-ego, Rita who has to try and navigate the whirly lifestyle of her former self. Whether that be an influencer for a power pilates company, speaking at female empowerment rallies or kicking back with the girls over a glass of wine, these montages, which sees Keaton practically fall on her face, offer a brief silver of comedic reprieve (as does the group scenes featuring Devine, Malick, Smith and Hill), but things grow irksome when a clumsy romantic plot develops between Mack’s charming next door neighbor (Milligan).
Instead of throwing Keaton into more obvious scenarios (why not see how she operates next to Paige and her entourage of Insta models?), “Mack & Rita” is content playing up the relationship between herself and Milligan which has about the same flavor as a bowl of plain oatmeal. The jokes are often different regurgitations of the same thing: retirement homes, sexual intercourse, and there’s even quips about herpes. The problem with “Mack & Rita” is the film has no pulse or sense of awareness around the plot, a shocker considering this movie comes from the producers of “Book Club” which successfully managed to use a talented ensemble in a meaningful way. Keaton also seemed to enjoy riffing with her co-stars in that film whereas here, it seems contractually obligated. I have no doubt “Mack & Rita” will satisfy its core audience, but when you have a cast this good, it’s hard not to feel disappointed at all the squandered potential.
MACK & RITA is now playing in theaters.