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Golden Years (1991)

DVD Cover (Republic Pictures)

5.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Genres: Psychological Sci-Fi, Science Fiction, Thriller
An elderly janitor hurt in an explosion at a secret army lab run by "The Shop" starts to grow younger. A ruthless operative is sent to cover it up, so the janitor and his wife go on the run with the help of a sympathetic female agent. --IMDb
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Review by Chad
Added: November 04, 2009
Stephen King adaptations are so hit-or-miss that it's sometimes hard to decide whether one of his releases is worth checking out. Honestly, who would have expected his take on a prison drama to be such a classic, and by the same token, who would have thought that his story about killer children could have flopped so hard? Golden Years, King's first story to be written exclusively for the screen, was one of those movies that seemed like it could have went either way. Unfortunately, it was another one of his flops... and clocking in at a massive four hours long, it was one of his most painful flops to sit through.

We begin with an introduction to Harlan Williams (Keith Szarabajka), a janitor working at the local government-funded science research facility. Harlan is an elderly man, closing in on 71 years old and feeling the age, but he still loves his job and still has a bit of the fighting Irish in him. He lives with Gina (Frances Sternhagen), his wife of fifty years, and the two couldn't be happier. Of course, all of that will change when an irresponsible scientist sets off an explosion at the facility, an explosion which covers Harlan in some sort of green substance. Harlan will walk away from this with only minor injuries, but as one would expect, that substance has a bizarre reaction with our hero shortly after.

You see, these scientists were working on something that would regenerate human cells by turning back the clock on them - the fountain of youth, if you will. Harlan, having been exposed to a healthy blast of the stuff, is now becoming younger by the day: his hair is regaining its color, his sex life is improving (nice mental image there), and his scars are quickly disappearing. The government wants to get him back in their custody to perform experiments on him and to see how this thing works, but naturally, our leading man doesn't want to spend the rest of his life as a guinea pig. So, the government enlists the help of killer-for-hire Jude Andrews (R.D. Call) to bring him in, government agent Terry Spann (Felicity Huffman) turns rogue to help Harlan escape their clutches, and it basically becomes one long chase... one long chase.

That's really the main problem with this film: it had enough material to make for a decent Masters of Science Fiction episode, but it didn't have enough going for it to become a feature length film without some padding. Trying to stretch this out to a miniseries that lasted for a grand total of four hours was just downright silly, but that's what they did... and damn, was it ever painful to sit through as a result. Everything is set up in the first hour (and even that is padded), the grand finale is over in twenty minutes, and the rest of the time is spent with the heroes running from point A to point B while the government is chasing them.

Another problem with the film was the ending and the lack of explanations provided for some bizarre events that occur. You see, there were originally eight episodes shot, but thanks to the show tanking in the ratings (rightfully so), the final episode never aired and is currently unavailable in any form. During the television broadcast, this led to the seventh episode ending in a huge cliffhanger with no final episode to explain anything, and on the DVD releases, that episode was edited to wrap everything up... but this wrapping up was done in such an awkward fashion that it's really not even a proper closure. I doubt that the inclusion of that final episode would have swayed my opinion much, but it sure as hell wouldn't have hurt.

Even the casting decisions were practically unbearable. Let's see here: Keith Szarabajka and Felicity Huffman were decent but by no means great, R.D. Call was enjoyable to a certain extent, and that's the best that I can say about the acting. Everyone else either simply didn't have the chops to carry their scenes, or as in more than one case, seemed to be completely uninspired and were just going through the motions. One performance that particularly hurt the movie was Bill Raymond as lead scientist Dr. Richard X. Toddhunter. Now, I'm going to preface my complaint by saying that I assume the man was told to make this character campy as all hell; I sincerely doubt that he transformed the character into an over-the-top goof and nobody stepped in to put an end to it. However it came to be, I just could not stand his scenes, and his character was reminiscent of something you'd see in a children's movie - you know, something like Home Alone 6 where all villainous adults apparently have the mental capacity of a sofa.

I really can't say a single positive thing about the film. The idea presented here had potential, but potential will only go so far when the final product is complete and utter shit. I'll go ahead and be generous with a 1/10 for some of the decent performances, but that's about six points higher than what I was thinking when the credits rolled.
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