Film Review: The ROMEOWS

These weathered guys are likeable enough but, like so many seniors, tend to repeat themselves, as does this documentary.

At first glance, the name The ROMEOWS might suggest a bunch of amorously inclined felines, and indeed this doc could well be said to be about some pretty old cats, although their romantic fires now seem, at best, banked. The title is actually an acronym for “Retired Old Men Eating Out on Wednesdays,” as director Robert Sarnoff focuses on a group of affable Brooklyn Jewish codgers who are and do just that.

Unfortunately, this is a far cry from Donna Kanter’s recent Lunch, which featured the likes of Carl Reiner, Monty Hall, Sid Caesar, Gary Owens and Arthur Hiller meeting for meals on the Left Coast. That film had real, juicy personalities, many of them giants in the entertainment world, their moxie and wit completely unimpaired through the years, delighting you with their yuks and shared, if often mordant, affection. The ROMEOWS, as stated, are likeable enough, but just not that special or interesting enough to warrant such devoted attention. The film soon becomes little more than an elaborate home movie capturing your favorite, awfully similar-seeming grandpas, as they chew and chew the fat in a style more haimishe than hypnotic.

The film’s chief interest comes from the group’s collected memories of growing up in Brooklyn. At one point someone says that the words “Brooklyn” and “cachet” are completely alien to each other, and you think these guys should get out more in their very own borough, as it has undeniably become one of the über-hip centers of the universe. But the Brooklyn these geezers knew was a special, highly enclosed world, sometimes limited to an alleyway between apartment buildings which, in one guy’s words, “was an entire stadium” with the games of pickup softball, etc., which were endlessly played.

The doc unhappily often veers toward the self-congratulatory, something Lunch scrupulously avoided, and by the tenth time or so you hear someone proclaiming this clique’s closeness and mutual support through the decades, the movie’s 80-minute running time begins to seem twice as long. One big mystery, however, is never addressed: how they’ve all managed to survive in relatively wonderful health, given the decades of cholesterol-laden, greasy and fried Chinese food, hot dogs, etc., they are seen consuming. Now that could be a really fascinating Jewish revelation!