“’The Hot Flashes’ should be appealing enough in its humor and approach to a meaningful, under-appreciated issue that it could become a mainstream hit for an older female audience”—Slant Magazine

“About 70 percent of women approaching menopause experience symptoms like the ones depicted in ‘The Hot Flashes’ until around age 50. Plus the story emphasizes the importance of mammograms. This film is not only funny, it’s a public service”—Reel Talk

“While it doesn’t achieve the comedic high points of ‘Bridesmaids’ or ‘Dodgeball’ it captures a very human element as the viewer follows the struggles this group of women face as they confront the unavoidable hands of time”—Influx Magazine

“On the bright side, it’s always good for women of a certain age to prove they’ve got game”—Common Sense Media

“It’s a cute movie, better than I expected it to be”—My wife

But “The Hot Flashes,” a film made with a “charity partner” in mind, was exactly what I thought it would be:  a light comedy with a formulaic plot and a message proudly and emotionally worn on the sleeves of a cast whose name recognition, like that of the characters they play, was stronger years ago.

“The Hot Flashes” seems to have been made with the purpose of raising money for the American Cancer Society at its June 2013 Hollywood premiere and raising awareness beyond that. The film itself offers proof, but the selfless nature of its cast/crew is reinforced by the fact that the only bonus features on this DVD are PSAs for mammogram screening and cancer awareness.

The plot follows a formula that’s been used in everything from “The Blues Brothers” to “Happy Gilmore.” Someone (or something) beloved needs money, and a single person sets out to remedy the situation. Here, a local mammogram mobile unit is being shut down because of budget cuts, and for Beth (Brooke Shields), who is experiencing near-debilitating hot flashes, it’s the last straw. Watching her daughter play on the state girl’s basketball championship team gives her the idea of trying to raise the $25,000 through a charity basketball challenge. Beth played on a previous Burning Bush (Texas) H.S. state championship team, and she decides to round up other oldies-but-goodies with a similar background.

The “recruitment” phase isn’t nearly as funny as it could have been and feels unnecessarily slow. But once car salesperson Ginger (Daryl Hannah), mayoral candidate Florine (Wanda Sykes), biker Roxie (Camryn Manheim), and floozie Clementine (Virginia Madsen) come together, their different personalities make for an occasionally funny (and surprising) line or two. As for the acting, only Shields and Madsen seem to work up a sweat, and only occasionally. Then again, there aren’t many opportunities here.

Though the script was penned by a first timer, writer Brad Hennig, who also produces, remains true to the conventions of formula flicks. Characters have unexplainably quick turnarounds, with no’s morphing quickly into yes’s, and side plots exist only to provide a brief respite from the main plot—in this case, five middle-aged women practicing for a three-game series against a team that’s coached by the ex-husband (Carl Palmer) of one of them and includes daughters of one main character and the daughter of a rival. As for the competition, it’s hardly believable that five out-of-shape women could get their game on in just two weeks, or that a veterinarian who lost his license (Mark Povinelli) could become their coach in that same amount of time. But reality isn’t the goal here.

Director Susan Seidelman (“Desperately Seeking Susan,” “Sex and the City”) seems to take the path of least resistance, a kind of play-it-safe and stay-on-message approach you’d expect with a film that’s partnered with the American Cancer Association. In fact, I’m a little surprised that they went for a scene in which one woman catches her husband (Eric Roberts) in the act, with bare, spread legs in close-up like that famous deep-focus shot of Dustin Hoffman and Mrs. Robinson’s leg. A few other moments seem risky as well, but by and large this is a film meant to do exactly what the film’s charity event does: to provide light entertainment while raising money for a good cause.

Surprisingly, for a fundraiser, “The Hot Flashes” is rated R for “some sexual content (no nudity) and drug use.” If I’m not mistaken there’s also some brief language. Runtime is 100 minutes.

The picture quality is surprisingly good, with the film presented in a letterboxed widescreen format that’s compatible with 16×9 monitors. Colors and skin tones are natural looking, and black levels are strong. Edges are decent, considering it’s standard definition.

The audio is a decent-enough English Dolby Digital 5.1 that spreads the sound around, especially during practices and games. There might not be much presence to the bass, but hey, it’s standard definition. “The Hot Flashes” is closed captioned.

Included are several PSAs that the cast made, with one of them being surprisingly funny. Also included is a short feature, “ACS at 100: Helping People Get Well,” and a full-color card stock insert featuring “Did you know?” questions about the American Cancer Society. The box features plugs for “The Hot Flashes” supporters, Butterball and Sancuso.

Bottom line:
I’ve seen reviews that have given this film the equivalent of a 5 out of 10, but I think that’s a bit harsh for a film that has its heart in the right place and does what it sets out to do: produce a light comedy that can draw attention to a serious subject.