Danny Collins Hums Along With an Abundance of Charm.
Director: Dan Fogelman.
Writer: Dan Fogelman.
Actors: Al Pacino, Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Canavale, Christopher Plummer.
Opens at: Angelika Dallas.
Kids, brace yourselves: Danny Collins is probably going to be your mom’s (and grandma’s) new favorite movie. But you'll probably like it, too: Only the most jaded hipster would be immune to the considerable charm of this R-rated but somehow family-friendly movie.
Here, Al Pacino plays the titular crooner, a man who's grown tired of singing the same old songs for the same, increasingly old audience. His character is a mix of several rock stars, but the most obvious inspiration Rod Stewart, who’s made nothing but dreadful covers of standards for most of the last decade.
Eager to reclaim his songwriting mojo, he flies to New Jersey to hole up in a hotel (a modest Hilton compared with the palatial mansion he owned in L.A.) and churn out some new material. His inspiration comes from two places: 1) a previously unseen letter to him from John Lennon, and 2) a desire to connect with his estranged son (Bobby Canavale).
Danny Collins keeps humming along thanks to an exceptional amount of warmth and charm. Yes, there’s a precocious kid (Giselle Eisenberg as Danny’s granddaughter, Hope). Yes, there’s a very wholesome courting of a woman closer to Danny’s age (Annette Bening, playing the hotel manager).
But there's one thing that’s a bit hard to reconcile: Danny Collins, the character, couldn't exist in real life. His abundant generosity to everyone he meets doesn't jibe with the fact that he's addicted to cocaine and alcohol. Addicts are looking for a fix, not genuinely trying to improve the lives of their friends and family. While a transformation from bitter son-of-a-bitch to warm-hearted grandpa would have been a tad cliché, it would have been a little easier to believe. The movie can't have it both ways.
Still, there’s lots of genuine delight to be had, especially with a cast this strong. Jennifer Garner, lovely as always, hits all the right notes (no pun intended) as Danny’s daughter-in-law. And Christopher Plummer is great as usual, playing Danny’s mostly carefree manager.
Even when the film falls out of its depth with emotional subplots — like threats of suicide and a cancer diagnosis — it's still completely engaging. Pacino, who hasn't made a good movie in more than a decade, is on his A-game again. As is the case with every character in the film, resisting Danny Collins' charm is futile.