Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, Burgess Meredith, Daryl Hannah, Kevin Pollak, Ossie Davis, Buck Henry, Christopher McDonald, John Carroll Lynch
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson
Directed by: Donald Petrie
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual references
Running Time: 103
Date: 12/25/1993

Grumpy Old Men (1993)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Putz and the Moron

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau had already struck comedy gold in their earlier pairings like The Fortune Cookie (1966), The Odd Couple (1968), and The Front Page (1974), and they were apparently great friends in real life. In 1991, Oliver Stone cast them both in his JFK, but not onscreen together. Maybe that gave someone the bright idea to bring them back and make an innocuous holiday comedy aimed at older viewers, but with enough vulgar humor to bring in the teens. The result was Grumpy Old Men, a sizable hit for its day, even if it appears to try both too hard and not hard enough.

In Wabasha, Minnesota, John Gustafson (Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Matthau) were once childhood friends that have been feuding for fifty years. They go ice fishing each day, together but separately, and play pranks on one another. (The best one has Gustafson tossing a fish in the back of Goldman's messy truck and leaving it there to rot.) They regularly refer to each other as "moron" and "putz" when they inevitably meet in the bait shop. Enter Ariel Truax (Ann-Margaret), a saucy, sexy woman of a certain age, who raises the stakes in their fighting. At least Ann-Margaret is given a real role to play; her Ariel has a history, has likes and dislikes, and makes her own decisions.

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