OK. So it’s no secret that Hollywood is a shining example of environmentalism. I mean, when it comes to reuse and recycle, the film industry is unrivaled. If a movie’s a hit, they make it another hit and then another. Let’s see if we can hit a 10-figure, worldwide box-office gross without burning a single creative calorie. The film industry will squeeze every dollar out of a good movie down to the last action figure. It’s the soul-less version of using all the parts of the buffalo.
Well, in the last couple of years, someone in Hollywood had their thinking cap on, and here’s why: The population is aging, Hollywood is not. Let me rephrase: Older movie stars are aging extremely well—with a few glaring exceptions—and are more than willing to keep working. I have serene images of Katherine Hepburn on her New England estate inspecting her rose bushes in blissful retirement, but the thought of Candice Bergen or Bette Midler doing it is laughable. Granted, the real movie hunks of the '60s and '70s didn’t have a chance at a twilight career. Steve McQueen and Richard Burton lived their lives like action heroes. So what do we have now? An older movie-going audience, a laundry list of retirement-age actors (stars, really), and a limitless supply of movie scripts ready to be retro-fitted.
Romantic comedies have always been all over the map, demographically speaking. The formula is so rigid and unforgiving that shifting the age of the characters is one of the few acceptable ways to shake things up. In 2003, the concept of people older than 50 (or 60) having a sexy romance that didn’t involve watching the sun glisten off Golden Pond really took shape with Something’s Gotta Give. The film has been followed by a series of respectable baby-boomer romances. The only problem being the innocuous interchangeable titles make it impossible to remember which movie is which.
I think Hollywood made the genre leap with Wild Hogs. (D*mn you, Wild Hogs!) When you think of bikers, you think of relatively young men. But Hollywood told movie-goers it’s never too late, and made Easy Rider for the older set. A movie that seemed to say chronic lower back pain and a Crestor prescription will not keep you from enjoying life.
Action movies have jumped on the bandwagon, as well. We’ve always had unlikely Die Hard hero John McClane and grouchy detective Roger Murtaugh who was “too old for this s**t” at the beginning of the 11-year Lethal Weapon franchise. Now we have The Expendables and RED, movies which proudly and purposefully declare that age and experience beat out youth and strength every time.
The Hangover for the older crowd is Last Vegas, while Rocky aged into the Grudge Match and Escape from Alcatraz became The Escape Plan. Obviously these films will meet with varying degrees of success. (In any event, one can’t help but notice Sylvester Stallone really seems to be reaping the rewards of this untapped vein.) All in all, I say hurrah for Hollywood. When it comes to action, thrillers, romance and even physical comedy, old is 'the new black.' I think as long as they steer clear of cheerleader franchises, slasher flicks and erotica, everybody wins.