Al Pacino tries to flex his acting muscles in "Two Bits," taking on a rare character part as an aged grandfather with a weak heart, who seems to live in the garden outside his daughter's home in Depression-era South Philadelphia.
Pacino is better at the emotions than he is at convincing us he's "old" and "feeble," and the Italian immigrant character is certainly stereotypical. And fans should be advised that he's playing a supporting role here.
This is one of those coming-of-age melodramas that is actually about the trials of a young boy growing up during tough times. In this case it's 12-year-old Gennaro (Jerry Barone), a sullen lad who wants desperately to raise two bits — 25 cents — to attend the grand opening of the new La Paloma movie theater one summer day in 1933. The film is narrated by Alec Baldwin, as the voice of the adult Gennaro, looking back on his youth with his grandfather and his widowed mother (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).
Grandpa tells the boy he has a quarter for him, which he'll inherit upon the old man's death. Naturally, this isn't the way Gennaro wants to obtain the money, so he spends most of the picture trying to earn some change by dancing in the street, helping out at the local grocery story, etc. And every so often, he returns home to receive pearls of wisdom, which Grandpa is only too happy to dispense.
When he finally gets up to 15 cents, he's especially frustrated. But Grandpa offers to give Gennaro the last dime if the boy will run an errand for him. Unfortunately, it proves to be a more difficult errand than Gennaro was counting on.
The episodic structure here is at its best when the adults are on the screen. Pacino has a couple of nice scenes and Mastrantonio is superb as she delivers a touching monologue about her late husband.
It obviously has its moments, but most of the way this is pretty tepid stuff. We've seen it all before.
"Two Bits" is rated PG-13 for violence (a suicide) and profanity.