It's time to pull the plug.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

It's time to pull the plug. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon have gotten a lot of mileage from the adventures of two lecherous old geezers, but the premise has become an airless balloon.

The problem is, of course, that just as we wonder if we can bear one more embarrassing visual gag, a Neil Simon one-liner blindsides us, and we hear ourselves laughing - a kind of reluctant reflex mechanism from our now inert selves, an involuntary gurgle.

The movie is a geriatric "Home Alone," a hodgepodge of the same type of torturous slapstick visuals that made that horrid hit such an ordeal. Repetitive to the point of exasperation, the film is one long scene of the two old guys trudging along a deserted highway, lost in Southern California, at the mercy of whatever contrived incident happens to swallow them up. Bewildered by a maze of towns, each called San something, they try to make comedy of being doddering, bumbling, and contentious.

Fastidious hypochondriac Felix (Jack Lemmon) and slop-buckety Oscar (Walter Mathhau) are on the way to the wedding of Felix's daughter to Oscar's son. As traveling companions, they are no more compatible now than they were as roommates thirty years ago. That's about it for the story. The real question is whether you as a movie lover will cotton to this kind of humor.

Consider the visuals. In a scene obviously meant to be hilarious, Oscar and Felix cavort with two barroom bimbos. Filling the air with Neil Simon's sexual innuendo, they mine the rich humor of two seventy-year-olds acting forty. I will not drop grains of prejudice in your path by using the word "grotesque."

Another surefire comic sight comes with the sudden death of the man driving Oscar and Felix. Can you even imagine how funny it is to see his toupee blow out the window, there to be plucked up by a crow?

Still trying to find the wedding, now by bus, the buddies are kidnapped by the irate redneck husbands of the barroom bimbos, who take them for a joyride full of some of Neil Simon's dullest lines. Are you laughing yet?

There seems to be no limit to Walter Matthau's willingness to be humiliated, none to Jack Lemmon's fondness for looking silly-as when he wears a white handkerchief tied at four corners to protect his head from the sun. These two accomplished actors could play any number of dramatic or comedy roles--think of Matthau in "I'm not Rappaport"--but they have found that acting someone else's age is a surefire way to the bank, and that's a shame.

As for Neil Simon and the involuntary laughter syndrome, the man writes not dialogue, but single lines, hundreds of them, and now and then an arrow hits the mark. If you loved "Home Alone," you will probably love this movie. If you did not, you might agree that the Grumpy Old Odd Couple should be retired.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Paramount
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 2h20m

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