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Leaving his trademark shark's grin aside, film icon Jack Nicholson plays it relatively straight in this offbeat slice-of-life story. Adapted from the novel by Louis Begley and directed by Alexander Payne ( Sideways), the 2002 comedy-drama casts Nicholson into the dreary role of Warren Schmidt, a 66-year-old insurance actuary whose retirement plans are undone when his wife dies unexpectedly. Pressed to find new meaning in his life, the bewildered widower buys a Winnebago and sets off on road trip to Denver, where he intends to derail the wedding of his only daughter (Hope Davis) to a slow-witted waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). Schmidt's disdain for the planned nuptials are only heightened when he meets the groom's free-spirited mother, Roberta, played by Kathy Bates (her nude scene with Nicholson in the hot tub is a highlight). The story too often veers into areas of predictable pathos - Schmidt's redemption, for example, is made possible only when he sponsors a Third World orphan - but Nicholson salvages the film simply with his presence. As with the Joker in Batman, he imbues energy into a one-dimensional character.

Saturday, CBC at 10 p.m.