The Odd Couple II (1998)
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Not that this is a boring film. Far from it. We always wondered how Oscar Madison and Felix Unger would have behaved as elderly men. Of course, Felix looked like he and Gloria were going to settle their differences and return together in the first play/movie. Indeed, in the television series Tony Randall did get back to his wife. But here it is obvious it did not work at all. Both men have remained divorced, and both men remain essential the same: Felix the compulsively organized neatnik and Oscar the incorrigible slob. They also have given each other a wide birth if possible. But they find themselves drawn back into mutual orbit. Oscar's son is getting married - and to Felix's daughter. So the pair are headed for the wedding, and that means jointly showing up.
What happens is a series of joint misadventures on the way to the wedding, especially involving two rather fun young women that they meet (Christine Baranski and Jean Smart) with their jealous boyfriends. This leads to several, increasingly odd, run-ins with the sheriff of a small town they can't seem to successfully leave. Indeed, in one case they get a lift out of town in a beautiful white classic Rolls Royce, which moves more slowly than a pair of people on bicycles.
The situations are all quite amusing. But the unity of the film is not there - it is like a series of skits involving Felix and Oscar, that are vaguely united because the two characters are familiar to us, and they are supposed to get to the wedding. Still the two stars give it their all, and with Baranski, Smart, and the late Bernard Hughes it works well enough as an entertainment. But for me, the wackiness and variety of OUT TO SEA make that film a better final film for the pair.
For me, "Grumpy Old Men" is how I would like to remember them. That film had a good story, and was supported by a great team of veterans, Burgess Meredith in particular. In that film, even the out-takes are great.
"The Odd Couple II" reminds me in many ways of "Tough Guys." Both films had legends, both as teams and as individual actors, so when Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster appear together for the last time, you want for them to have something really special. That is what we wanted for Jack Lemmon and Walther Matthau. These films are okay, but only because the actors are in them. They are not good enough movies to honor their memories.
The other way to judge this film is by looking at it as the closing act of a REAL buddy team of two actors who have shared a big part of their lives together, both professionally and personally. Then it doesn't matter if the film is as outwardly funny as it is charmingly humorous. You sit there thinking of their first film together -- the first "The Odd Couple" -- and you reminisce. Their first outing with "The Fortune Cookie", their most memorable romp in "The Odd Couple", the hilarity of "The Front Page", their renaissance in "Grumpy Old Men" and "Grumpier Old Men", and even their not so great "Out to Sea" and "Buddy Buddy". You admire them for what they meant individually and collectively to American cinema. And as you watch the scene of them parting at the airport, just maybe you think of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in that scene in "Guess Who's Coming Together" where they both know the end is almost upon them...not in film, but in real life. And you see the wistfulness of the parting scene between Lemmon and Matthau, probably realizing that this is the last film together.
So, how to judge this film? Factually or sentimentally? For me, more the latter, because it's a hearty farewell and thank you both for the laughs you have given me.
The script by the great Neil Simon was very hit and miss with the jokes and the whole premise of both of them going to their children's wedding was forced. The direction and editing was pretty sloppy and there was a moment when they were walking in the desert when I almost had a brief flash back of when I saw the movie "Ishtar". The only thing worth seeing and is why I watched it is for Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Despite this odd sequel having a crapola premise, you still gotta love these guys. I'd say watch it for them, but also check out the first movie.