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‘Grumpier Old Men’

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 22, 1995


Howard Deutch
Jack Lemmon;
Walter Matthau;
Sophia Loren;
Kevin Pollak;
Daryl Hannah
salty language and sexually suggestive situations

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Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau reprise the roles of a pair of Minnesota mossbacks in the heartwarming, albeit warmed-over, sequel "Grumpier Old Men"—though given its scatological bent, it might have been called "Grump and Grumpier."

With John Gustafson (Lemmon) newly wed to Ariel (Ann-Margret), Max Goldman (Matthau) is frequently without a fishing and sparring partner. More and more often, he spends his time either watching lesbians on "Geraldo" or staring forlornly into his friend's window. Since John is posing in the nude for Ariel's sculpture, Max is taping the whole thing just in case he needs to use it against his lifelong chum.

It is six months after the end of the first movie. The lake has thawed and the fellows have abandoned their ice-fishing shanties for motorboats and the pursuit of a legendary catfish known to inhabit these waters. Aside from the occasional battle at sea, life has settled into an acceptable routine. Before the movie does, too, saucy Maria Ragetti (Sophia Loren, still stupefyingly stacked at 61) inherits the grumpies' beloved bait shop and decides to transform it into a romantic ristorante.

Though it's obvious the lonely widower Max and the oft-divorced Maria are meant for each other—he makes her laugh; she makes him think dirty thoughts—they spar over the prospect of her rigatoni replacing his night crawlers. When she stubbornly pursues her plans, Max and John try their wacky best to save their wormery.

Romance is in the air, as is the sound of polka music, for John's ribald 90-year-old father (Burgess Meredith) sets his cap for Maria's feisty mother (Ann Guilbert), who proves surprisingly receptive to his offer of cannelloni. The grumps are also tickled to be helping plan the upcoming wedding of Jacob Goldman (Kevin Pollak) and Melanie Gustafson (Daryl Hannah).

For all of that, nothing much happens in "Grumpier Old Men," which draws most of its enormous charm from that beloved odd couple—Matthau and Lemmon, who trade barbs with the ease of an old vaudeville team. They obviously had great fun making the movie, which concludes with a series of hilarious outtakes. The leads, except for the little-utilized Ann-Margret, may creak a bit, but they are easily more spontaneous than the jejune cast of "Saturday Night Live."

Howard Deutch, whose first film, the teen flick "Pretty in Pink," remains his best, directed from the screenplay by "Grumpy" writer Mark Steven Johnson. Deutch, who adopts an easy porch-swing pace, obviously is at his best when working with the young at heart.

Grumpier Old Men is rated PG-13 for salty language and sexually suggestive situations.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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