In the 1970’s and 80’s, movie stars were a different thing than they are now. Nowadays famous is famous, there really are not iconic ‘stars’ as much as during that time. One such actor that truly defined a ‘movie star’ had to be Burt Reynolds. Not only did he make crowd pleasing blockbusters like Smokey and the Bandit, The Longest Yard and The Cannonball Run, he also put out one of the best dramatic performances of the 70s in Deliverance. He was an action icon, a great comedic actor, and even had a successful TV series with Evening Shade. In recent years Reynolds has been reduced to cameos and roles in direct to video movies but a new film out now, The Last Movie Star, gives Reynolds a chance to make us remember why we loved him in the first place.
Reynolds plays Vic Edwards, an aging former movie star lured to a small film festival to try and relive some of his glory days. While under the assumption other former greats have accepted the same lifetime achievement award he will be getting, he finds out the truth that none of them ever accepted the award in person and that the festival itself is a small event hosted in a bar by a small group of fans led by Doug McDougal (Clark Duke). After befriending Doug’s rebellious sister Lil (Ariel Winter), Vic takes off on a road trip with Ariel serving as chauffeur to revisit locations from his past. Along the way both Vic and Lil discover something unexpected about their pasts, present and maybe hope for their futures.
Last year a film with similar themes came out called The Hero with the wonderful Sam Elliott and I can’t help but think that film would make a great double feature with The Last Movie Star. Reynolds is perfect here pretty much playing a caricature of himself with the filmmakers even editing him into scenes from films from Burt’s actual filmography for hilarious dream sequences. But the real charm here is Burt himself as he plays up much of the emotion I am sure he has actually experienced as an aging Hollywood star. He does it here with class and a welcome vulnerability that is charming and funny. Modern Family’s Ariel Winter provides a fun counterpart to Reynold’s Vic as a representative of the modern era Vic feels so out of place in. But Winter’s character feels out of place in her own time as well, so they do end up having things in common. The Last Movie Star is light fun and without Reynolds I am not sure it would have been quite as memorable, but he does make it what it is and for that it is definitely recommended.