Grumpy Old Men Review

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Two elderly next door neighbours, Max (Matthau) and John (Lemmon), were once good friends, but fell out over a woman and have been feuding ever since. Years later, a beautiful younger woman moves into the neighbourhood and the men's argument reignites on a much larger scale as they try to woo her.


Despite being one of the great screen teams, Lemmon and Matthau made only four pictures together: The Front Page, The Fortune Cookie, The Odd Couple and Buddy Buddy. That this unadventurous comedy took almost $70m in the US is surely less due to the movie's merits than to the public's fond memory of their earlier movie couplings.

As the title implies the pair yet again play a couple of crochety, argumentative old sods, Max Goldman (Matthau) and John Gustafson (Lemmon) whose childhood friendship soured back in 1938 when they fell out over a woman. Still neighbours 55 years later, they pass the time squabbling and ignoring attempts by their offspring, Hannah and Pollak, to negotiate a ceasefire. They get a new lease of life, though, when gorgeous Ariel Traux (Ann-Margret) moves in across the road. Realising that there might still be one more chance for love, and possibly even sex, the two crack open the Sanatogen and engage in all-out war while flashing their dentures at Ann-Margret.

It's undoubtedly a pleasure to see Lemmon and Matthau sparring together again onscreen, but without Billy Wilder or Neil Simon on hand to pep up the script, surprises are few and far between. Though mildly amusing in an old-fashioned way, it's slightly unsettling to see two chaps whose Zimmer frames are obviously parked out of shot lusting after a woman 20 years their junior. Perhaps the title Dirty Old Men would have been more apt.

Watching Matthau and Lemmon in this vehicle is sometimes hard to stomach after knowing that they are worthy of so much more. Instead of making anyone laugh all it's poor, cheap comedy does is make you cringe for these respectable actors.