Al Pacino Rings True as Danny Collins

This likable movie rises or falls on Al Pacino’s ability to convince us that he’s an aging pop star…and he does. Danny Collins follows a familiar story path, but it’s such a pleasure to watch Pacino (and fellow cast members Christopher Plummer, Annette Bening, Bobby Cannavale, and Jennifer Garner) that it barely matters. I’ve made this comparison before, but this kind of movie is the cinematic equivalent of
comfort food.

Bobby Cannavale-Jennifer Garner-340
Dan Fogelman (The Guilt Trip, Last Vegas) makes his directorial debut with a screenplay he wrote about a Billy Joel-like singer who’s coasting on decades of fame, giving his aging audiences exactly what they want to hear—especially his signature song, “Baby Doll.” But when he discovers that his sexy young wife has been cheating on him, he pauses to consider his life. On impulse, he travels to New Jersey to look up the son he’s never known (a subdued but effective Cannavale) and the grandson he’s never seen. He checks into a local hotel (managed by Bening), rents a piano, and tries to recharge his musical batteries by composing something new for the first time in years.

As each story thread is introduced you can pretty well foresee its outcome, but Fogelman’s screenplay is straightforward, sincere, and happily devoid of irony. If you have no moviegoing history with Al Pacino you might not derive the same enjoyment that I did from Danny Collins…and if you crave edgy drama you’ll have to look elsewhere, but if you’re in the mood for lightweight entertainment with an
appealing cast, this should fill the bill.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024