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Connery should act his age -- and with actresses his age

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The new thriller-diller "Entrapment" is almost as slick as its ad campaign, and the huge box-office grosses for the first two weekends prove that even at age 68 -- yes, that's right, he's 68! -- Sean Connery still has more big-screen charisma than Richard Gere, Hugh Grant and Tom Cruise on their best hair days.

But as enjoyable as his "To Catch a Thief"-style character is -- along with his unlikely romance with Catherine Zeta-Jones (she's 29!) -- perhaps Connery should take a page from Cary Grant's book:-- When the roles aren't there, rather than contrive them it may be time to hang up your toupee.

Not that I'm suggesting Connery retire, mind you. Hold your e-mail for a moment. Rather, I'm suggesting he start acting his age with actresses who are also a bit closer to his age.

When Grant, in his later years (circa 1962-64), began to find himself cast opposite younger and younger leading ladies (Doris Day, 20 years his junior in "That Touch of Mink"; Audrey Hepburn, 25 years younger in "Charade"; and Leslie Caron, 27 years younger in "Father Goose"), he was afraid he was beginning to look a bit ridiculous.

So, for his next (and what proved to be his final) film, "Walk, Don't Run" (1966), Grant left the romance to a younger couple (Jim Hutton and Samantha Eggar) and took on a more paternal role.

If Grant had been able to find the right scripts, he certainly had the talent and charisma to continue making movies -- and he could have made them right up to his death some 20 years later.

Instead, however, he chose to bow out on top and be remembered as a dashing leading man.

Connery is still dashing on the screen -- and his "Entrapment" character is supposed to be 60. But it's a little silly to have him act as if he can still scale high-rise buildings, hang from a string of exploding lights and run up and down stairs faster than a speeding Aston-Martin.

In fact, "Entrapment" might have been more fun if he had played to the age thing. Why can't this thrill-seeking burglar still have flair while discovering that he can't quite manage some of the stunts that used to come much easier.

As anyone who goes to the movies these days has come to expect, "Entrapment" is on par with most big-screen entertainments today -- it's too long, too self-referential and far too underwritten. (Why do so many screenplays these days get the green light when they're obviously not ready to go; that light should stay red, or at least yellow, for a couple more rewrites.)

And it is to Connery's credit that the film works at all. Zeta-Jones has plenty of her own movie charm going, but her romantic pursuit of this guy who could be her grandfather is never believable. (Although, ironically, the romantic plot is perhaps the least unlikely aspect of "Entrapment" -- a movie so loaded with wild implausibilities and excuses for itself that it could have come from a Clinton speechwriter.)

And there are plenty of actresses closer to Connery's age who are still working -- and many of them are still quite glamorous, if that's the criteria.

In fact, plenty of Connery's former co-stars could still be his on-screen match:

Tippi Hedren, his co-star in "Marnie" (1964).

Gina Lollobridgida, "Woman of Straw" (1964).

Dyan Cannon, "The Anderson Tapes" (1971).

Candice Bergen, "The Wind and the Lion" (1975).

Of course, if Hollywood had its way, any one of those would be cast as Connery's mother!

In fact, as long as 26 years ago, Connery was romancing much-younger women. Remember "Never Say Never Again" (1983), Connery's final James Bond outing? His co-star was Kim Basinger; he was 52 and she was 29.

The truth is, women over 40 are almost aways cast as mothers of adult children or grandmothers, but hardly ever in action roles.

And, after all, what's wrong with playing a mother of adult children or a grandmother? Or a father of adult children, or a grandfather?

Did anyone see Connery with 64-year-old Gena Rowlands earlier this year in "Playing By Heart"? They were fabulous together!

And frankly, their witty relationship was a lot more believable and entertaining than anything in "Entrapment."

Chris Hicks may be reached by e-mail at hicks@desnews.com