Undoubtedly, all those behind the making of Diamonds had admirable intentions. The script strives to inject some humor in the often painful relationship between fathers and sons. The director, John Asher, reportedly hoped to pay homage to his own dad and mentor, film director William Asher, who was a recent stroke victim. And as for Kirk Douglas? Well, the formerly virile, razor-jawed actor who became famous for playing tough guys evidently needs to prove to the world that, at age 82, following a physically debilitating stroke, after serious injuries sustained in a helicopter crash, he can still act, he's still full of energy and he's still one tough honcho.
But Douglas could have-and should have-made his point in a more dignified role, befitting the dignity of his past career, instead of the one he plays in Diamonds. His Harry Agensky, an 80-ish widower, is a feisty, irrepressibly optimistic ex-prizefighter who in his glory days was known as 'the Polish Prince.' Considering himself fully recovered from a serious stroke, Harry comes up with a cockamamie scheme to buy a house, hire a companion and keep himself out of a nursing home-all of which he hopes to accomplish by going to Reno, Nevada, to recover a cache of priceless diamonds he long ago buried in a mobster's kitchen wall. To pursue his quest, he enlists the help of his least-favored son, Lance (Dan Aykroyd), a divorced sportswriter, who's trying to revive a relationship with his own son, 15-year-old Michael (Corbin Allred). In the dead of a Canadian winter, this cross-generational trio takes off in Lance's topless red convertible. Not surprisingly, on the rollicking road to Reno, new bonds are formed between father and son, grandfather and grandson, etc.
Apparently foiled in their attempt to find Harry's fabled diamonds, the three Agensky boys decide to just have themselves one hell of a good time. They strike it rich at the casinos, beat off an attempted mugger, enjoy a lavish dinner and end up seeking the services offered at one of Nevada's famed 'chicken ranches.' It's grandpa's idea. He thinks son Lance needs a good lay, and why not give grandson Michael a proper, professional intiation into the pleasures of adult sex? As for old Harry himself, after a few drinks he's pounding his chest and bellowing, 'I'm the man!'
What follows is supposed to be funny. It isn't. In fact, the drawn-out bordello sequences are downright excruciating-from the moment the boys meet the resident madame, 'Sin-Dee,' an elegant older dame played by Lauren Bacall, still one of the most elegant older dames around. (One can't help wondering what Bacall thinks she had to prove by appearing, however briefly, in this badly misguided movie.) Harry, totally full of himself, picks out four-count 'em, four-girls with whom to make whoopee, and virginal Michael settles on blonde, sweet Sugar (Jenny McCarthy). Yet, the only man in the family to actually prove he's a man, so to speak, is Lance, who, along with his 'date,' Tiffany (Mariah O'Brien), does it with the help of a toke or two.
There's a happy ending for all, naturally, and it's especially happy for old Harry. But let's go back to the opening scenes of Diamonds-scenes in which we see a series of black-and-white photos and film clips of what's supposed to be Harry Agensky, the fictional character, as a young boxing champion. But they really show the young Kirk Douglas in his 1949 boxing classic, Champion. For some wrong-headed reason, the face of the movie star we once knew and love is juxtaposed with a full-frame closeup of this wizened, rather weird old man-Kirk Douglas today-alternately grinning and puckering and sticking out his tongue while engaged in a series of post-stroke mouth exercises. In the fadeout, he repeats this therapeutic but ridiculous-looking routine-as a romantic gesture. Embarrassing is not a strong enough word.