Based on a regionally successful play by James Cada and Mark Keller, OLD EXPLORERS is verbose and snail-paced, despite sturdy performances by the veteran leads.
Warner Watney (Jose Ferrer), who lives with his son Alex (Jeffrey Gadbois), daughter-in-law Leslie (Caroline Kaiser) and their burgeoning brood may soon be shunted off to an old-age home. His friend Leinen Roth (James Whitmore) is a widower who lives alone in an apartment. The two battle old age
and physical disabilities by getting together and playing mind games in which they set off for wooly, dangerous adventures in exotic locales like the Sahara Desert, where they search for Atlantis, the Himalayan Mountains, where they look for Shangri-La and fight off a horde of Mongols, and the
Bermuda Triangle. After Leinen survives a stroke, the pair set off on a real-life adventure, joining a tugboat on its wintry way down the Mississippi to New Orleans.
Directed by William M. Pohlad, mostly as a two-character study, OLD EXPLORERS says something touching about the quietly growing terror of old age and the use of childlike imagination to--if only momentarily--forestall it, but it gets lost in the listless, paper-thin adventure sequences, filmed in
Arizona and Florida. William Warfield, who definitively sang "Old Man River" in Show Boat on Broadway and in the 1953 film, turns in a sharp performance as the tugboat captain.
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