In Diminished Capacity, Matthew Broderick is Cooper, a political columnist for a large newspaper syndicate based in Chicago who, thanks to a serious head trauma, is now suffering from memory loss and reduced to proofing the comics pages. One day his mother (Lois Smith) calls and asks him to come help her with her brother-in-law Rollie (Alan Alda), an old coot in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who cannot take care of himself and believes fish are writing poems on his typewriter. When Cooper arrives in his rural Missouri hometown, he quickly discovers that his high-school flame Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) has split from her husband, and that his uncle owns a very valuable baseball card, featuring the right fielder from the 1908 Cubs, the last Cubs team to win the World Series.
Quicker than you can say “road trip,” Cooper and Rollie decide to drive to the Windy City, where a large sports-memorabilia show is about to open. They’re accompanied by Charlotte, an aspiring artist who is trying to sell one of her pictures to a restaurant chain, and her baseball-loving son. At the show they meet a dealer and diehard Cubs fan (Dylan Baker) who agrees to help them broker a deal for the card with some big-money guys, and a fast-talking, abusive dealer (Bobby Cannavale) whose motives are suspect.
Inevitable, sometimes obvious, plot complications ensue. Cooper and Charlotte will, of course, affirm their undying love for each other, and after a series of contrivances—some of them bordering on the farcical—the card will wind up in the right hands.
If all this sounds a little too pat, or a little too quirky-indie, it’s really not. Diminished Capacity’s screenplay is smart and well-written, filled with good lines and just enough offbeat moments to make it interesting, not annoying. Smoothly directed by veteran actor Terry Kinney, the film features some fine performances, particularly from Alda as the cantankerous elder slowly beginning to realize his problem, and Baker as a long-suffering fan of the ever-disappointing Cubs. At 88 minutes, Diminished Capacity is as long as it needs to be, and if you can see the end coming from a ways off, that’s OK. It may not be brain food, but this little film is a pure piece of sharp entertainment. In a summer filled with over-the-top tentpole pics, that’s saying a lot.