Four Oscar-winners redefine "sex in the Sixties" with the mildly ribald "Book Club," a safe, mostly coital-free rom-com stocked to the rafters in gags rooted in the same sort of ageism Bill Holderman's well-meaning flick attempts to squelch.

The irony seems lost on all involved, as the director and his co-writer, Erin Simms, trade freely in the sort of stereotypes you'd expect from an enterprise intent on putting the "sex" back into sexagenarian.

It's the kind of woman-needs-a-man thing you'd hope feminist icons the caliber of Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen would avoid like the plague. But they wholeheartedly give into the demands of a script inspired by the most sexist literary offering since the heyday of the Marquis De Sade, "Fifty Shades of Grey." Yes, the gazillion-selling BDSM novel from E.L. James has inspired its fourth film. It even co-stars Don Johnson, father of none other than Dakota Johnson, aka Anastasia Steele. And you know what? It's the best of the bunch, albeit by default.

Even a screenplay as lame as this springs (insert Viagra joke) to life when the words are flowing through the lips of a bevy of AARP-eligible all-stars that also includes Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Richard Dreyfuss and Johnson as the silver foxes who make the ladies -- as the film likes to say -- get "moist" after they devour the sordid Red Room adventures of Christian Grey and Ms. Steele, the billionaire's beloved whipping gal. But as is often the case, the sex is just an enticement for a story that's less about bumping uglies than it is about a lifetime friendship between four women who've shared a love of books since their reading circle picked up Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying" 40-odd years ago.

That part of the movie is terrific, especially whenever Holderman has the good sense to put the four women together in one room and let them work their magic with a slew of off-color one-liners. And that should have been the entire story -- watching them react to each other as their monthly book club pours through "50 Shades" gleaning randy ideas on how to reignite their long-dormant sex lives. But if beating the odds of getting lucky must be the goal, you certainly could do a lot worse than what's on display.

Of the four horny fillies, Steenburgen's Carol, a gourmet chef, has the easiest task, coaxing her distracted hubby, Bruce (Nelson), into the wonders of Viagra. The other three find love in more adventurous ways, as Fonda's hotel mogul, Vivian, stokes an old flame in Johnson's Arthur; Keaton's recently widowed, Diane, flies right (despite her aerophobia) in meeting Garcia's stinking rich airline pilot, Mitchell; and Bergen's divorced federal judge, Sharon, gets a tingling in her legal briefs when introduced to Dreyfuss' George via Bumble. All four pairings have chemistry, with Keaton and Garcia (who oddly enough played Keaton's nephew in "Godfather III") being the most potent. But whenever the ladies pair off with the men, the movie loses much of its spark.

Which raises my biggest complaint: Why must all of them have a sexually active man to feel happy? It defeats the whole purpose of the story, not to mention deprives us of what we want most, which is more of them together. It also would have been fun if the writers did a better job of weaving in more of "Fifty Shades of Grey." Like, why not have the women clumsily trying to re-enact some of the sexual acrobatics from the "Grey" movies. Now, that's what I'd call bonding.

Still, what's here is eminently watchable thanks to the four leads, who collectively dazzle. You can't get enough of them. And they all look terrific; especially considering Steenburgen is the only one who is actually in her 60's. I'm still astounded as to how generous the fountain of youth has been to 80-year-old Fonda, who looks half that age.

Yet as Roxy Music's seductive "More Than This" plays near the end, it's an unfortunate reminder that you indeed want more than what's here. But like these feisty ladies and their kinky quest for sexual fulfillment, you gladly take whatever you can get when you can get it.