There’s a wafer-thin line between life and art where “The Last Movie Star” is concerned — Adam Rifkin’s bittersweet, fictionalized portrait of a pro football hopeful turned stuntman turned 1970s box office sensation played by pro football hopeful turned stuntman turned 1970s box office sensation Burt Reynolds.
When we’re first introduced to Reynolds’ Vic Edwards, he has just put down his faithful canine companion, returning to an empty home decorated with memories of an all too distant past.
He’s offered a chance to revisit those glory days courtesy of a Nashville film festival honoring him with a lifetime achievement award, and despite his initial reluctance, he accepts the invitation after prodding from his buddy Sonny (Chevy Chase).
Arriving in Tennessee to discover the festival is a rinky-dink operation held in a pub and hosted by fanboy Doug McDougal (Clark Duke), a less than appreciative Edwards is ready to bolt but ends up taking a life-affirming detour en route to the airport, accompanied by his driver-assistant, McDougal’s feisty sister Lil (Ariel Winter).
Thanks to its star’s all-in commitment, the overtly maudlin film works better than it should, particularly sequences in which octogenarian Reynolds is dropped into “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Deliverance” and converses philosophically with his younger self.
Gimmicky to be sure, but those clips provide a valuable reminder of the undeniable charisma that made Edwards, er, Reynolds, such a bankable screen icon.
‘The Last Movie Star’
Rating: R, for some sexuality/partial nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal Theatre, West L.A.; also on DirecTV