Actress Katie Aselton returns to feature directing after nearly a decade away in Mack & Rita from Gravitas Premiere. When 30-year-old self-proclaimed homebody Mack Martin (Elizabeth Lail) reluctantly joins a Palm Springs bachelorette trip for her best friend Carla (Taylour Paige), her inner 70-year-old is released literally. The frustrated writer and influencer magically transform into her future self: “Aunt Rita” (Diane Keaton).
Freed from the constraints of other people’s expectations, Rita comes into her own, becoming an unlikely social media sensation, and sparks a tentative romance with Mack’s adorable dog-sitter, Jack (Dustin Milligan). Mack & Rita celebrates being true to yourself at any age in this sparkling comedy with a magical twist.
When I was a child, one of my favorite film plot lines was the age swap premise. We all remember the Jodie Foster classic Freaky Friday, and who can forget the late 1980s mini-cycle of age-swap / body-swap pictures? Those movies included Like Father Like Son (1987), Big (1988), 18 Again! (1988), Vice Versa (1988), and Dream a Little Dream (1989).
Upon first glance at the cast, one would think the writers Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh would possibly try and make a race relations comedy headlined by Lail and Paige, but thankfully they avoid this route and allow the always enjoyable Keaton to shine. The script for Mack & Rita avoids the typical cliches of age-swap comedies for the most part. There are plenty of moments where a joke about senior citizen discounts or “in my day” could’ve worked, but this never happens. For the most part, I took from the film to enjoy your youth, but when you get older, continue to be young at heart. The film only runs about ninety-five minutes, so no one else in the cast has an arc outside of our leading lady.
This decision was a shame, as I always enjoy seeing Taylor Paige on screen and wish she had more to do. It seems that the secondary story that focuses on a budding romance with a character portrayer portrayed by Dustin Mulligan is meant to fill this void. Additionally, there are some enjoyable scenes with the always pleasant Loretta Devine and Wendie Malick.
While I doubt that Mack & Rita will have the same staying power as Big, fans of Diane Keaton should enjoy the film.
Final Grade: C
Mack & Rita is in theaters now
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