Fame fades. There are only a few special personalities in this world that will maintain a spot in the public consciousness as they live out their golden years. That being said, even those who have stood in that bright spotlight for their 15 minutes will have some degree of fan base that worships the ground their heroes trod upon. At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, there was one film that took a look at the special circumstance of an actor in his golden years, who was once the most bankable star in Hollywood. Starring Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winter, and directed by Adam Rifkin, let’s talk about Dog Years.
From unnoticed stunt man, to handsome leading man, Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds) has spent the majority of his life as an idol of young men and lover to many Hollywood starlets. Those times are long gone, though. His present life is spent lunching with his only friend (Chevy Chase) and ogling groups of women partaking in outdoor yoga sessions. When a letter arrives from a Nashville Film Festival set to honor Vic’s achievements, he is quick to dismiss it. However, when his only friend alerts Vic to the prestigious nature of the award being offered by the festival, Vic decides to bite the bullet and make an appearance.
Of course, all is not what it seems. Driven around and assisted by a snotty, out of control woman driving a broken down hunk of metal instead of the limo he was promised and enduring the battery of geek, fanboy questions was the last thing Vic wanted.
Apart from the fact that the film stars Burt Reynolds, a man who really has never stopped working as he grew older, the biggest attraction of Dog Years is the use of old Burt film and TV footage. While it’s fun to revisit some classic images and appearances from Burt’s illustrious career presented as those of the life of Vic Edwards, the main attraction comes from watching Mr. Reynolds act against his younger self as he is transported back into clips from Smokey and the Bandit and Deliverance. The conversation aspects of these moments are nothing to write home about. It’s hard to write meaningful dialogue that fits your brand new film with those of a movie with completely different thematic journeys. This leads to a lot of dialogue from the older Burt, with young Burt just nodding, or faintly paying attention. That being said, it says volumes for the cathartic nature of Dog Years‘ story.
As a whole, the film solidly lives off its actors more than its tale. As Lil, the unenthusiastic, love sick time bomb assigned to assist and aid Vic during his weekend festival excursion, Ariel Winter has an opportunity to shed the goody-two-shoes aspect of her Modern Family character, for one of a more outwardly troubled personality. Though it’s expected, the bonding experience that ends up taking place between Vic and Lil does feel rushed, but gives the actors an opportunity to flourish in the roles.
The other members of the cast are almost throwaways and no matter how you feel about any of their performances, you’re still there to see Burt Reynolds do his thing; and in all honesty, he is pretty mediocre through three quarters of the film. Though, when that final breakthrough hits, and the real Vic and Burt need to shine through, it’s a home run. Melodramatic, tear-jerking, emotionally poking sensations all expertly pour out of Burt Reynolds like an active volcano, and it works.
Dog Years is standard film fare, by most accounts, but it has its moments and can keep you engaged when it really needs to. If you’re nostalgic for a strange trip down the old road of Hollywood, it works as a perfect viewing option, but if you desire a deeper, truly invigorating journey, Dog Years may have to wait that 7 years to find its way to a screen near you.