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The Wendell Baker Story

  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
OLD JOY Cassel, left, reaches out to Luke Wilson.
OLD JOY Cassel, left, reaches out to Luke Wilson.

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Here’s something satisfying: ’70s-cinema fetishism with the courage of its convictions. This rambling, unabashedly sentimental romp courtesy of the brothers Wilson (including behind-the-scenes sib Andrew) unfolds with the vaporously casual charm of that decade’s larkier cinematic gems. Luke channels a ’stacheless Burt Reynolds as the titular Austin grifter, who after being released from prison decides that redemption awaits in the hospitality industry. Wendell takes a job at a rundown retirement hotel, where he befriends the residents (Cassel, Stanton and Kristofferson), clashes with the scheming head nurse (Owen Wilson) and attempts to win back his girlfriend (the wooden Mendes).

Wendell Baker’s tenderness for its autumnal supporting cast is unexpectedly personal and affecting: The senior trio slyly mirrors the Wilson collective, so that the movie is as much a tribute to the idea of Luke, Owen and Andrew growing old together as it is a paean to the actors keenly selected to play their older counterparts. Its happy ending is pure ’80s wish fulfillment, but just seeing Kristofferson and Stanton together for the first time since Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (who’d count the 1997 Steven Seagal vehicle, Fire Down Below?) is worth the ticket price. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Mark Holcomb

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