After his mother's death, Collin Fenwick goes to live with his father's cousins, the wealthy, avaricious, and controlling Verena Talbo, and her compliant, earthy sister Dolly. When a city ... See full summary »
Joseph Kotcher, a retired traveling salesman, lives with his son Gerald and daughter-in-law Wilma in Los Angeles. He dotes upon his young grandson Duncan irritating high-strung Wilma to the... See full summary »
A busy, "always-on-the-run" executive learns during a meeting that his mother may be dying and rushes home to her side. He ends up being his father's caretaker and becomes closer to him ... See full summary »
When the very moralistic college ethics instructor (Aykroyd) finds himself living next door to an accused German death camp commander (Lemmon), he takes it upon himself to rid the world of ... See full summary »
Newly-promoted if none too happily married Howard Brubaker leaves a rowdy Company party early with the stunning Catherine, whom it turns out is herself unhappily married - to the boss. They... See full summary »
Walter Matthau plays a professional killer going by the name of Trabucco, who is on his way to rub out gangster Rudy "Disco" Gambola, set to testify against the mob. As Trabucco heads off ... See full summary »
Harry is a barely functional human. He meets an old friend who is having marital problems as Harry is about to leap off of a bridge. His friend decides that Harry is the man to take his ... See full summary »
Ellen (June Allyson) is kidnapped by father (Charles Bickford) after she ran off and got married to someone he thinks is a gold digger. She escapes and starts an adventurous trip back to ... See full summary »
Two major supporting roles for the film were added to the story which were not in the "Mass Appeal" stage play. These were the housekeeper and monsignor characters, played by Louise Latham and Charles Durning respectively. See more »
Father Tim Farley:
You're a lunatic! And Christ NEEDS lunatics. But the trouble with lunatics is, they don't know how to survive.
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a study of idiosyncrasies and harmless little lies
Mark Dolson (Zeljko Ivanek) wants to be a priest because, as a child, someone boiled his goldfish. The alternate version is as uninspired - because he does not find fulfillment in intimate relationships with either sex, he is qualified for the priesthood. At any rate, he says that he wants `to help people.' A bit of a loose cannon, Dolson is sent by the Monsignor to serve as deacon for the now jaded Father Farley (Jack Lemmon).
What ever his faults may be, Dolson is impassioned. He wants to make a difference. The problem is that it is unclear as to whether the priesthood is the place for him to do it. As a vehicle for exploring the question of gays (or women for that matter) in the Roman Catholic priesthood, Mass Appeal is lacking because of this lack of clarity.
His lack of a clear `call' is foregrounded by his lackluster attempts at sermons. All Mark knows is that he wants to move people. He is uncertain about where his congregation is, or where he wants to move them. Farley steps in to suggest that he go for beloved. Hence the play on words in the title. Farley wants Mark to gain Mass Appeal by making the Mass appealing: if someone finds God in the process, hey that's ok too. Dolson will have none of this and founders.
Farley's appeal is that he knows the system. One gets the impression that he wants someone to rock the boat. Of course the irony of the situation is that in order to shake up the system, one must first join it.
Does this film have a meaning or a message? Well yeah, it does. But that is something for each viewer to figure out for him or herself. It won't make you hate or love the church (any church this one just happens to be Roman Catholic). Did I like the film? Yes. Is it my favorite? No not even close. It is a study of idiosyncrasies and harmless little lies (`I didn't know there was such a thing,' says Dolan). Jack Lemmon is in it for goodness sake, what else could you want?
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