You know, they didn't seem all too grumpy to me.

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are neighbors, John Gustafson and Max Goldman - or Putz and Moron as they call each other. In GRUMPY OLD MEN, they fought for the affections of Ariel (played by Ann-Margaret), against the engagement of their kids (Darryl Hannah and Kevin Pollak) and with each other in general.

GRUMPIER OLD MEN picks up six months after the first left off: Ariel is John's wife, the kids are set to get married and Max is alone. Max and John are, however, at peace. And this is the result of their common mission in planning the kids wedding and their new common enemy in the woman who wants to open an Italian restaurant on the site of the old bait shop. The woman is Maria Ragetti, played by, oh yes, Sophia Loren.

It's not too hard to see the romantic set up here. And it's not too hard to see that Max and John's planning of the wedding causes the kids to have second thoughts. And it's not hard to see that this sets Max and John into a full scale war. In fact, if they hadn't gone to war, there'd be little grumpiness at all.

The comedy itself is likewise easy and predictable. There's moments that seemed lifted straight from the original ODD COUPLE. For instance, John, asleep on Max's couch, wakes to find a tuna on rye tucked in the cushions under his head. Max thanks him for finding it and asks if he wants half. Strangely, this sort of formula wasn't as grating as I expected. Lemmon and Matthau make it cute.

My biggest surprise with this movie was Sophia Loren. The last thing I saw her in was READY TO WEAR (a.k.a. PRETE A PORTE) and I didn't like her one bit. But now I realize - duh! it was her character (and Robert Altman's direction) I didn't like. In GRUMPIER OLD MEN, she's likable and natural - both in anger and in joy.

I don't know if it means anything, but one of Maria's five ex-husbands was named Marcello.

Burgess Meredith plays John's reprobate father. He does a fine job of portraying the motions and speech of a 95-year old man (naturally). But he doesn't play a very good dead man - you could see his mouth twitching and his closed lids blinking.

My favorite part of the movie was the end credits, not because I couldn't wait for the movie to finish, but because they played amusing outtakes behind them. For example, the director calls to Walter Matthau, "You need to be more out-of-breath." Matthau replies, "If I were more out of breath, I'd be dead."

This movie is an instant videocassette rental. Watch it with a grandparent.

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Mike's Midnight Movie Reviews
copyright 1995-1998 Michael J. Doyle