Grumpier Old Men (United States, 1995)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

As 1993 drew to a close, movie-goers in search of light entertainment were treated to the delightful (if formulaic) Grumpy Old Men, a reunion of the often-paired odd couple of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Now, two years later, John Gustafson (Lemmon) and best enemy Max Goldman (Matthau) are back at it again. Only this time, their barbs lack the zing of the previous outing. And that's not all that's missing in this ill- advised sequel. Grumpier Old Men isn't as fun, spontaneous, or amusing as the original. In short, it's a poor retread that can't be redeemed by the pleasure of seeing Lemmon and Matthau together.

Grumpier Old Men picks up some six months after the end of the first movie. It's Autumn in Minnesota, and normal fishing has replaced the ice variety for John, Max, and John's father (Burgess Meredith). John's daughter Melanie (Daryl Hannah) and Max's son Jacob (Kevin Pollak) are busy planning their wedding while newlyweds John and Ariel (Ann-Margret) are settling down into a comfortable routine. Meanwhile, Max does his best to hide his own loneliness, but his stated preference of a TV dinner in front of Geraldo doesn't fool his son, who encourages Max to start dating. As luck would have it, a very eligible Italian divorcee (Sophia Loren) moves into town around this time, and her eventual pairing with Max seems inevitable.

Maybe the actors aren't having as much fun this time around, or perhaps the jokes are just too flat, but Grumpier Old Men is uninspired. Even Burgess Meredith, who easily stole the first film, isn't as good here. The movie seems like something made exclusively because its predecessor was a box-office success. Whatever magic Grumpy possessed, Grumpier lacks.

As was the case in the 1993 movie, the best part arrives during the end credits. If you bothered to come at all, this series of bloopers and outtakes is worth staying for. Meredith's list of creative double-entendres is easily Grumpier Old Men's comic highlight. Unfortunately, the competition for this honor is pretty feeble. The sequel has only about a third as many legitimate laughs as the original.

While this may not be the final on-screen teaming of "putz" Lemmon and "moron" Matthau, hopefully this is the last time we'll see them as John and Max. It's not difficult to recognize that there's still chemistry between the actors, but they need a new behind-the-scenes creative team. These particular grumpy old men have had their day.

Grumpier Old Men (United States, 1995)

Director: Howard Deutch
Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Sophia Loren, Kevin Pollak, Daryl Hannah, Burgess Meredith
Screenplay: Mark Steven Johnson
Cinematography: Tak Fujimoto
Music: Alan Silvestri
U.S. Distributor: Warner Brothers
Run Time: 1:35
U.S. Release Date: 1995-12-22
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Profanity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1