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Movie Review: Grumpy Old Men

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One of the most superb comedies ever filmed, Grumpy Old Men showcases the multi-dimensional talents of two of Hollywood's most accomplished actors, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. With the additional brilliant comic performance of Burgess Meredith, Grumpy Old Men transforms from a gem of a picture into one of the funniest movies ever made. A sweeping commercial success, the film spawned the sequel Grumpier Old Men — a rare breed of movie that almost lived up to the quality of the original.

In Grumpy Old Men, lifelong friends and neighbors John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Walter Matthau) trade jibes on a daily basis against the backdrop of the frozen Minnesota tundra. Maintaining a relationship that appears to be nothing more than a give and take of acerbic sarcasm, the two men actually enjoy a strong bond of kinship that has lasted all their lives. Widowed and retired, both men live a confined and comfortable existence, defined by routine ice-fishing trips and visits from immediate family.

John and Max both find new life when a rambunctious vixen, Ariel Truax (Ann-Margret), moves into the neighborhood. Ariel befriends both men, but they both act as if they aren't interested in her because of their inner fears of leaving their comfort zone. It takes the actions of their friend, local baitshop owner Chuck (Ossie Davis), to jar the two men from their comfortable, yet boring lives. When Chuck pays a visit to Ariel's house late one night, he rouses the jealousy of both men who instantly transform into competitors for Ariel's affections.

While Max seemingly has the upper-hand in the quest, the tables quickly turn in John's favor when Ariel communicates her feelings during a late night visit to the Gustafson abode. Meanwhile, John's daughter, Melanie (Daryl Hannah), and Max's son, Jacob (Kevin Pollack), develop a romantic relationship with one another.

With John and Ariel becoming an item themselves, a wedge is further driven between John and Max who continue their feuding unabated. Only a true father can break up these two fighting boys, which John's father does. But will their friendship be ruined forever?

Flooded with countless one-liners, perfect delivery of insults, and an endless number of comic scenes, Grumpy Old Men is one of the most hilarious films you'll ever have the pleasure of enjoying. The onscreen magic between Lemmon and Matthau is unsurpassed by any comedy duo before or since, and the screenplay is expertly written.

The closing credits may actually be more entertaining than the film itself, which is quite an accomplishment. As the credits run the course of the screen, original outtakes from the film are shown. Burgess Meredith steals the show with his matter-of-fact, coarse utterances, such as "Looks like Chuck's gonna' bury his bone!"

With well-timed humor and the ingenious performances of several Hollywood veterans, it's no surprise that Grumpy Old Men ranks as a definite must-see film. If you haven't seen it, you have no idea what you've been missing. Trust me, you could rent a hundred films before coming across something that's even close to being as funny as this one.

Britt's Rating: 9.8/10

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About Britt Gillette

  • sr

    Britt. Excellent job. What a great movie. Just to look at Walter Matthau will make me laugh. Sure wish he was still around. Im sure you remember Walter Matthau as Mr Wilson in Dennis The Menace. Another great movie. Is Jack Lemmon still around?

    Thanks Britt,

  • Bliffle

    You might like “The Horses Mouth” with Alec Guinness as Gully Jimson, another grumpy old man. There’s an excellent Criterion print available on netflix.