Everybody thinks they should be famous.
And once the fleeting nature of fame becomes apparent, everyone thinks they deserve another shot at the top. Because what’s more American than a comeback? It’s part of the modern media birthright, just like stardom.
Such is the nature of the post-reality-show world.
Even worse than the loss of fame, of course, is the loss of the lifestyle it affords. Which brings me to “The Dukes,” the directorial debut of actor Robert Davi. This easy-going movie is about coping with life and redefining success on your own terms.
Davi and Chazz Palminteri play Danny and George, cousins and best friends who were part of a popular doo-wop group, the Dukes, as teen-agers in New York. Now in late middle age, they find the bookings have dried up, despite the best efforts of their manager, Lou (Peter Bogdanovich). So Danny and George make ends meet working in the Venice Beach restaurant owned by their grouchy Aunt Vee (Miriam Margolyes).
They still have dreams of recapturing the kind of fame they had as kids but the market for doo-wop is way off. They might light a fuse with a commercial Lou has booked them, but this turns out to be a dud as well.
Meanwhile, life impinges. George, who is something of a chubby chaser, loses a dental crown and needs a replacement. Danny, who is divorced, also has a dental emergency, in the form of overdue bills for his son’s orthodontia.
Their solution? While at the dentist’s office with George, Danny overhears the dentist discussing the big stash of gold he and a group of dentists have invested in, which is being kept at a nearby lab. A friend, Armond (Frank D’Amico), knows a former heist artist (Bruce Weiss) who could help them rob the place. Sure, they’re amateurs, but desperate times…
The plummeting economy has given “The Dukes” surprising relevance. These are honest guys, forced to take drastic steps to stay afloat – and they don’t even have variable rate mortgages. Think “Going in Style,” minus the geriatric jokes.
It’s the season of the year when movies go dark and darker, in search of Oscar love. “The Dukes” swims against that current. It’s a pure feel-good movie.
Actor/director (and cowriter) Davi’s heart is obviously in every frame of the film. His interplay with costar Palminteri is wickedly funny. And the rest of the cast is so solidly professional that even its weaker moments seem to shine.
It’s the kind of movie I would have gladly recommended to my late mother: sunny and entertaining, a welcome relief from the season’s usual doom-and-gloom.