RATING |

For a while, it seemed the card-playing craze had finally ebbed.

And so we could turn on the Spike channel without being forced to endure, even for two seconds, the deadly spectacle of, say, Jason Alexander doubling down on a pair of Jacks.

I'd hoped the Vegas-besotted "21" might be the death knell, but the opposite was true — the movie found an eager audience, and it (inexplicably) generated good word of mouth.

And so, drawn from mothballs or interrupted on its way to DVD is "Deal," a poker movie that has the dubious honor of being even worse than "Lucky You."

It features Bret Harrison as Alex, another "21"-style college whiz kid who turns his numbers knack into a means of winning money at online poker.

He qualifies to play in a poker tour, and though he loses, he catches the eye of a retired veteran (Burt Reynolds), who makes Alex his protege.

The movie is dealt from the same deck as "The Color of Money," but instead of Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise and Paul Newman, you get Gil Cates Jr., Harrison, a halting Reynolds and a penny-ante budget.

The master-student relationship/rivalry at the center of "Deal" has little pop, and it's a kind of sad to see ex-superstar Reynolds covered with more wrinkles than Yoda, hardly able to move, and no longer able to summon even the twinkle of the eye that made him a star. *

Produced by Michael Arata, Steve Auston, Albert J. Salzer, Marc Weinstock, directed by Gil Cates Jr., written by Mark Weinstock, distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.