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IN SHORT: This is one of the most enjoyable of the Lemmon Matthau pairings since Grumpy Old Men. Cranky's Mom loved it. Cranky was tremendously amused.
The thing that Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau have going for them is that, as a pair, they can be very funny. The thing that works against them is that the roles that work best are all derivative of the Odd Couple pairing that got it all started years ago. There aren't a lot of 'em, but the lesser ones make it feel like there are. Out to Sea is the story of a pair of elderly brothers-in-law. Elderly in this case does not mean walking dead, and should not keep you away from the funniest pairing of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in a very long time.
The characters are by the book: Charlie (Matthau) is $3000 in debt to his bookie; couldn't tell the truth if he really had to, and desperate for an easy out of his financial straights. Never married either. For him, the easiest way to avoid getting both legs broke is to find a rich woman and marry her. Fast.
Herb (Lemmon) is 71 and widowed. He still sets the dinner table for two and has no interest whatsoever when brother in law Charlie gives him tickets for a cruise to see a solar eclipse in Mexico. What Charlie didn't say was that he signed 'em both up to dance with the widders on board. Charlie's looking for the rich ones. Herb is looking for a way off the boat.
Out to Sea may be aiming for those of us who have passed death's door (the one with the big three oh on it) and it's filled with a role call of stars from past eras. All the major supporting roles are filled with stars of two generations back, all of whom prove that age is no barrier to performance. Donald O'Connor dances, as it should be; Hal Linden sings as he did many times on Broadway; Elaine Stritch is the would be bitch of a mother in law; Rue McLanahan should be familiar to y'all from television. Matthau sets his eyes on Dyan Cannon (good eyes Walt) and does his best not to do the job he signed up to do. 'Cuz he can't dance a step. Not a lick.
But the big surprise to those of you who may be thinking "bo-ring," is the military base raised song and dance man who is the Cruise Director, and thus incredibly nasty man, Gil Godwyn (Brent Spiner). Trekkers out there who are thinking "no way" know little of the actor who played "Data" on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spiner is a Broadway performer from way back, and he fill out Godwyn with a nasty streak, and British accent, a mile wide. It's a great performance made moreso by the cat and mouse play between his character and Matthau's.
Back to the story... Charlie set his sights, but his competition is the ever suave, white haired and tres rich Edward Mulhare (in his last role), who possesses money, class, power and no conception of the nuances involved to win a lady. What Matthau does is work up a head of comedic steam which is absolutely explosive. He must get Cannon to drop Mulhare, and he must keep out of Spiner's way, else his carefully orchestrated impersonation of a rich guy (you have to see it to believe it) will fall apart. On the third hand, he must get the mourning Lemmon out of the cabin, so he can find love and the happy ending and all that sort of good stuff.
Director Martha Coolidge is to be complemented for not letting the story fall into the stereotype that it could have. Coolidge has always been a cool director, and she is one of the reason's I looked forward to Out to Sea. Though not shooting for the Clearasil crowd, Out to Sea delivers good comedy that will find a younger audience on videotape. The older you get the funnier it gets, because all the stars holding roles trigger certain remembrances in the audience. Mom loved it.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Out To Sea, he would have paid...
Mom would've paid $7.00. Out to Sea begins as an excuse to go for that Love Boat kind of falling in love, albeit with motive, story and ends up with a happy ending and a set of outtakes tacked onto the end credits which is funnier than the movie. The rude stuff always is.
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