A cringeworthy dating comedy

Even icon Andy Griffith can't make "Play the Game" a winner.

Always happy to see Andy Griffith, whether as the charismatic demagogue in A Face in the Crowd, the wise county sheriff Andy Taylor in his self-titled TV show, or the crusty septuagenarian in Waitress.

So I was looking forward to his role as the grieving widower in the intergenerational comedy Play the Game, in which a grandson (Paul Campbell) teaches Gramps (Griffith) how to score with "chicks."

Alas, the conceit of a double-dating Grandson and Gramps does not produce a great many laughs in this cringeworthy film costarring Doris Roberts and Marla Sokoloff as the comely Granny and Granddaughter in their sights.

Like a teenager who tarts up in slutwear so she can be perceived as a grown-up, Griffith plays a formerly wholesome senior who spouts urban slang so he will be perceived as with-it. Hearing Griffith's character extol his discovery of oral sex gave me vertigo. Surely, there is a way of expressing the joy of sex without the potty-mouthed dialogue that desecrates the persona of a television and movie icon.

And surely, there is a way of constructing a dating comedy that doesn't speak out of both sides of its mouth. Marc Fienberg's movie wants us to believe both that game-playing in courtship prevents the players from being truthful about their feelings, and that game-playing is inevitable because no man will commit from natural causes. Sheesh!

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.

Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/

Play the Game

Directed by Marc Fienberg. With Andy Griffith, Liz Sheridan, Paul Campbell, Rance Howard, Clint Howard, Marla Sokoloff, Juliette Jeffers, Geoffrey Owens, Doris Roberts. Distributed by Slowhand Releasing.

Running time: 1 hours, 45 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for sexual content and language).