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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Danny Collins movie review: the tragedy of the filthy rich rock star

Danny Collins red light

Listen as the world’s tiniest violin plays on the soundtrack of this utterly obvious and clichéd three-quarter-life crisis dramedy.
I’m “biast” (pro): like the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Aging rock star (Al Pacino: Manglehorn) has a sad because he only just now learned that John Lennon had written him a letter in 1971 — it never got to him — and warned him about how it’s not fame and fortune but “only you” that can corrupt a musician’s art. And because Danny Collins never received this sage advice, he corrupted his art, and now is forced to spend his incredibly lavish and luxurious old age singing the same damn hit song over and over again to aging fans he disdains. (That song is “Hey Baby Doll,” which sounds so much almost exactly like “Sweet Caroline” that it could be part of a case study in the law books about copyright infringement.) But now the letter, finally in his possession, prompts a three-quarter-life crisis. “If I’m gonna find any kind of redemption,” Danny tells his manager (Christopher Plummer: Hector and the Search for Happiness), “I can’t waste any more time.” And so writer-director Dan Fogelman’s (Cars 2) utterly obvious and clichéd dramedy sets Danny on the road to superconvenient redemption. Fogelman mines “charm” from the celebrity fairy dust Danny’s leaves in his wake — look how he sets up those two cute young people working in the hotel! — and from the ministrations of a hotel manager (Annette Bening: Girl Most Likely) who takes no shit and gives no fucks, offering just the sort of tough love that a man of Danny’s age really shouldn’t need to get his act together. And when Danny connects with the grown son (Bobby Cannavale: Ant-Man) he’d never before met and his wife (Jennifer Garner: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) and little daughter (Giselle Eisenberg: Sex Tape), Fogelman feels the need to invent not one but two family crises for Danny to graciously step in and resolve. The very talented cast is very game, but there’s nary a word or an act here that is very convincing. Is that the world’s tiniest violin I can hear on playing on “Hey Baby Doll”?

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Danny Collins for its representation of girls and women.

red light 2 stars

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Danny Collins (2015)
US/Can release: Mar 20 2015
UK/Ire release: May 29 2015

MPAA: rated R for language, drug use and some nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, drug use)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    If you used tags, this sort of film could be “oh poor baby”.

    An awful lot of family problems are more readily resolved when you have rock-star levels of money to throw around.

  • You’ve seen the movie, haven’t you? :-)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    “I got 99 problems, and about 70 of them would be solved if I had more money.”

  • LaSargenta

    Thanks, pal. Now I’ve got that running through my head.


  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I live to serve

  • Gregory Netterville

    It’s like you always say: there is almost no male fantasy that cannot end up onscreen…

    If you consider The Humbling (almost beat-for-beat the same story as Birdman), Manglehorn and Danny Collins, Pacino has made the same movie three times in a row. What an interesting stretch at this point in his career.

  • LaSargenta

    I’ll remember that.

  • LaSargenta

    I know. These last few years I’ve preferred to rewatch Cruising, Dog Day Afternoon, Frankie and Johnny, The Godfather, …pretty much anything from when he still had juicy roles.

  • RogerBW

    Have you seen the trailers for The Intern? De Niro plays a smiling old codger. Gah.

  • LaSargenta

    Somehow, Walter Matthau managed to continue having good roles in movies as he aged. Not every single one, but some. Pacino’s streak isn’t looking nearly as good. Nor DeNiro’s.

    Mind you, he did do a great Shylock a few years ago; but, that’s theater, not the movies.

  • Danielm80


    I’m trying to convince myself that The Intern is secretly a horror movie.

  • LaSargenta

    I missed that. I was thinking of the 2010 (? 2011?) Shakespeare in the Park production.

  • I suspect the problem isn’t so much Pacino but the stagnation of cinema. No one today is making the sorts of movies that Matthau was doing 30 years ago.

  • LaSargenta

    Nor Pacino. I mean, Sea of Love was a pretty good thriller. Glengarry Glen Ross…Even Scent of a Woman, although I was pretty conflicted about the ‘don’t snitch’ message. Refusing to be forced to keep someone’s unsavory secret or ratting someone out (depending on your point of view) is not a cut-and-dry thing.

    Anyhow, those are about 25 years old.

    Yeah, cinema is stagnating.

  • Danielm80

    There was a rumor going around last year that Pacino might appear in a Marvel super-hero movie. Whether that would be a good thing is for you to decide.

  • LaSargenta

    Really? U think he’d listen to me?

  • Danielm80

    No. But you can decide whether or not it’s a good thing to spend your fourteen bucks at the box office.

  • LaSargenta

    That isn’t much of a ‘decision’. In the meanwhile, it would be using resources that could be put to better use.

  • bronxbee

    when i first saw that picture, i thought it was sean penn.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Hey, it costs a lot of money to be poor. It’s far cheaper in the long run to be rich. :-)

  • Tonio Kruger

    After Rocky & Bullwinkle and the Meet the Parents movies, nothing surprises me about Robert DeNiro’s film roles anymore.

  • Tonio Kruger

    It worked for Robert Redford…

  • Tonio Kruger

    Even back then, it seemed like Matthau was making more mediocrities like Little Miss Marker and Buddy, Buddy than decent films like First Monday in October.

    Then again, it seems like the only actor over a certain age who has avoided appearing in outright garbage has been Robert Redford and he has accomplished that by either producing his own movies or appearing in a starring role about once in a blue moon.

  • Tonio Kruger

    A fact that has been proved by the Jackson family and Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown’s next of kin…

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