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    Returning Mickey Stern

    Return to sender

    "Returning Mickey Stern" aims to be a heartwarming, magical-realist film about "fixing" the past, but new filmmaker Michael Prywes misses the mark.


    Sometimes all the good intentions and the cute stories about how a film got made, can't save it. So here's some advice to young filmmakers: no matter how sweet and plausible your script looks on paper, your film is in trouble when a) the leading man looks uncomfortable in the part; b) the press notes are far more interesting than anything on the screen; and c) the so-called magical realism is neither magical nor real. Any one of these single points can be a problem — taken together they scream, "Danger, Will Robinson!!" or in this case "Danger, director Michael Prywes."

    Written and directed by: Michael Prywes.
    Cast: Joseph Bologna, Tom Bosley, Joshua Fishbein, Brett Tabisel, Kylie Delre, Charlotte Prywes, Arnie Prywes, Joan Garnock, Sarah Schoenberg, John Sloan, Bernard Furmanski, Connie Stevens.

    Related links: Official site
    Starting with his UCLA thesis script — another potential danger point - Prywes (who wrote and co-produced as well) attempts to tell a modern-day Fire Island fairy tale about 67-year-old Mickey Stern. He's a onetime baseball rookie, Korean War vet and amateur magician, returning to his favorite summertime spot after the death of his wife, Leah. On the boardwalk, Mickey spies another Leah (Kylie Delre), a beautiful young woman, and he shows her what seems to be a picture of the two of them taken 50 years earlier. Cue the magical realism. Mickey's Leah got away the first time around and although they finally did marry, it was for all too short a time. The girl on the beach is her double.

    Mickey also meets 17-year-old Michael (Joshua Fishbein), the image of himself in the old photo. Neither youngster is who Mickey thinks they are, but he spends the rest of the ninety minute flick, trying to turn back time and make them into the match he missed. Leah and Michael just think Mickey's a little nuts, but Michael's certainly game to nail Leah, if he can. There's male bonding of a slightly grotty quality, as Mickey pushes young Michael at Leah with attendant winks, nudges and advice on what she likes.

    Mickey's best friend Harry (Tom Bosley, in full Borscht-Belt mode as a bagel baker) tries to dissuade and distract him, and the young Michael even tries to fix him up with a very attractive older woman (Connie Stevens). But Mickey is obsessed with his need to get the two young people together. He doesn't even seem to notice that there are others already in Michael and Leah's lives. Whatever Mickey wants he isn't necessarily going to get.

    In what passes for wit, Renee Taylor (in her by-now way overdone yiddishe mama mode) coos, "I'm a Virgo."

    "I'm Czechoslovakian," replies Bosley.

    Flashbacks and flashforwards galore push the story around as much as forward. Leah and Michael are empathetic enough to help Mickey through his depression, but Bologna's character (described as "older than an elephant's ass"), is truly unpleasant and he often looks as uncomfortable as his co-star Michael Caine did in "Blame It on Rio."

    MAY 11, 2003

    Reader comments on Returning Mickey Stern:

  • connie   from filomeno, Mar 6, 2007

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