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The Lightkeepers -- Film Review

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However sad the dearth of substantial film roles for older actors, it's far sadder to watch them partake in anemic affairs like "The Lightkeepers," a lifeless period romance of the cutesy-cantankerous persuasion.

The pristine landscape is the only cinematic element in this stagy story, the second in a planned Cape Cod-set trilogy that got off to an inauspicious start with last year's "The Golden Boys."

Writer-director Daniel Adams' goal of telling old-fashioned tales devoid of special effects is commendable as far as it goes, but forgoing 3D doesn't mean a movie has to be as unrelentingly two-dimensional as this one. The bygone-days subject matter and involvement of Richard Dreyfuss and Blythe Danner might lure older audiences, but word-of-mouth for "Lightkeepers," which opens May 7, will not be a welcoming beacon.

The overacting begins before we even see the characters, with a bit of voice-over sparring between lighthouse keeper Seth (Dreyfuss) and his fed-up assistant (Jason Alan Smith), a younger man who longs for the company of other people, females in particular. It's summer 1912, apparently a time when "woman-hater" is an accepted personality type. It's a label Seth embraces wholeheartedly; the only time he uses the pronoun "she" with affection, he's referring to a boat. But the crusty former sailor doth protest too much, in both senses of the phrase.

Seth continues the grating odd-couple shtick with his new assistant, a well-dressed Brit (Tom Wisdom) who claims, unconvincingly, that his name is John Brown and he fell off a steamer. He too has sworn off women. Enter the women.

As the independent females who, in predictable fashion, challenge the boys' club, Danner and Mamie Gummer fare better than the gents. But though their performances are more nuanced, their characters are no less contrived. Gummer plays an artist who never is seen painting; the former is her housekeeper, complete with crucial convoluted backstory.

All the drama is in the past, revealed in dialogue, not flashbacks. Present-tense action is static and talky, the constantly coaxing music no substitute for effective pacing. The closest thing to dramatic friction arrives with the brief appearance of Bruce Dern, who starred in "Golden Boys" and has inexplicably returned to the Adams fold. For an even briefer cameo, Julie Harris wisely remains under cover of night.

Opens: Friday, May 7 (New Films Cinema)
Production: New Films International presents a Cape Filmworks and Dreyfuss/James production in association with Tax Credit Finance
Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Blythe Danner, Tom Wisdom, Mamie Gummer, Bruce Dern, Jason Alan Smith, Julie Harris
Screenwriter-director: Daniel Adams
Executive producers: Richard Dreyfuss, Nick Stiliadis, Scott Fujita, Judy James, Nesim Hason, Sezin Hason, Straw Weisman, Serap Acuner
Producers: Harris Tulchin, Daniel Adams, Larry Frenzel, Penelope Foster
Director of photography: Thomas Jewett
Production designer: Marc Fisichella
Music: Pinar Toprak
Co-producers: Sanford Hampton, Scot Butcher, Anthony Gudas, Andy Surabian
Costume designer: Mimi Maxmen
Editor: Dean Goodhill
Rated PG, 97 minutes