Fans of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau recall that the original film “The Odd Couple” was made 30 years ago. These two Grumpy Old Men have appeared in ten movies together, not all of them being smash hits. It appears that the producers counted on their chemistry combined with the writing of Neil Simon to insure a financial and box office hit this time around. It did not happen. In fact, “The Odd Couple II” was nominated for the Stinker Award for the Most Painfully Unfunny Comedy. Nevertheless, as a fan of wry humor, this film appealed to me in a somewhat twisted fashion.
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Jack Lemmon - Wikimedia
Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon) and Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) had not seen each other in twenty years. Oscar, a sportswriter, had moved to Florida but Felix remained in New York City. He volunteers at a local hospital reading to patients, telling them jokes, and listening to their stories. Oscar has a group who plays poker at his house regularly. On one of his poker party days, he received a call from his son Brucie (Jonathan Silverman) who lived in California. Brucie called to invite Oscar to his wedding which would occur on the next Sunday at the bride’s mother’s house in San Malina, California. The surprise was that Brucie was marrying Oscar’s daughter Hannah (Lisa Waltz), and of course Felix would be giving the bride away.
Two Old Friends Meet Again
The men arranged to meet each other after seventeen years, at the Los Angeles International Airport where they would pick up a rental car to drive the rest of the way to San Malina. Felix had a bad time on the plane because his allergies were affected by the smell of the perfume on the woman sitting next to him. The stewardess was unable to change his seat. The next catastrophe occurred when the two friends spotted each other at the Airport and ran toward each other. Felix injured his foot when he crashed into Oscar, which necessitated getting a wheelchair to make his way around.
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Walter Matthau - Wikimedia
Their Idiosyncrasies are Firmly Imbedded
On the drive down to San Malina, they caught up with each other. Felix mentioned that over the years he had three divorces, two broken engagements, and five women who just disappeared. Also, he had to eat every four hours because of a sugar condition, and he had to use the men’s room frequently. He downed ten pills without water because he did not trust the water in the small town where they stopped. All of this time, Oscar’s patience was wearing thin, which he concealed by spouting sarcastic one-liners, as only Oscar can do.
Everything Goes Awry
While Felix slept, Oscar managed to lose the directions to their destination when his cigar ashes fell on the papers, causing them to catch fire. Neither one could remember the name of the town where Hannah’s mother lived. It was San something. Felix had another copy of the directions in his suitcase in the trunk of the car. It was only then that they discovered that they had left Felix’s luggage at the Budget Rent-a-Car Office hours ago. His luggage contained his black formal afternoon suit that he planned to wear to give his daughter away. It also contained an expensive silver Tiffany tray that was a wedding present for the couple, and $10,000 which he planned to give to the groom.
The Car Falls Over a Cliff
When Felix banged on the hood of the car in his anger, he set the car’s wheels in motion and the car backed up and went over a cliff. They watched helplessly as the car caught fire and exploded. Oscar was shattered because he had lost his return ticket to Sarasota which was left in the car. There was nothing left to do except to try to thumb a ride on the deserted road.
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Christine Baranski Wikimedia
A Pick-Up Truck Gives Them a Lift
They were finally picked up by a man named Rico in a pick-up truck. He agreed to drive them to a gas station a few miles down the road where they could call Brucie to send someone to pick them up. After several minutes, Rico was flagged down by a friend of his in a car coming from the opposite direction. Rico explained that his friend reported that Rico’s wife was in the hospital. He asked them to drive his truck to the gas station and he would pick it up there later.
The Two Friends are Arrested
About a mile down the road, a blockade stopped the truck. The men were taken to the local police station in San Menendez where the Chief of Police (Richard Riehle) explained that there were 20 illegal aliens in the truck. After hearing their explanation, the Chief let them go and they went to a local hotel where they hoped to get a good night’s sleep. They stopped in the hotel bar for a drink and met two girls there, Thelma and Holly, who were looking forward to a night of fun. Oscar persuaded Felix that they should join the girls for the evening. They met a man in the bar named Dr. John Boxer who was giving a Seminar on Life in the hotel. He told Felix he lived in San Malina and would give them a ride there at 6 a.m. the next morning. He and Felix joined the girls and they all went dancing at a night club for the evening.
Oscar and Felix are Arrested Again
Dr. Boxer was true to his word and picked up the men at 6 a.m. the next morning. He was driving a $150,000 English Rolls Royce with the driver’s seat on the right side. The men got in, only to discover that the car drove about 5 miles an hour. Cars and runners passed them all along the road. When Dr. Boxer closed his eyes as he was driving, Oscar and Felix thought he had just fallen asleep. In fact, he was dead. Felix took over the driving and put Boxer in the passenger seat. A police officer stopped them for going too slow and brought them back to the same police station to explain things to the Police Chief, who let them go a second time. The Chief told them a bus would be leaving in 20 minutes, and they had better be on it.
Oscar and Felix Face the Police Chief Again
At the first stop, Thelma and Holly got on the bus. They were being chased by their angry husbands. At the next stop, the two husbands stopped the bus, and took the four passengers off. A bartender at the hotel had given them the description of the men who went dancing with their wives. The husbands forced them all into a convertible. Unfortunately, a blockade stopped them again and Oscar and Felix found themselves back facing the Police Chief again. When Thelma and Holly explained that Oscar and Felix had nothing to do with the abduction, the Chief let them go once more with the warning to get out of town and never come back.
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Neil Simon - Wikimedia
They Made it to the Wedding
Oscar and Felix made it to the wedding on time. In fact, Felix’s luggage got there before he did, and he was able to give his daughter Hannah away in his black formal afternoon suit. Brucie had a small difficulty, wondering whether he should back out of the wedding, remembering that his own parents had divorced and his mother had married three times. After talking with Oscar, he decided to go through with it, and the wedding went off without a hitch.
Felix and Felice Hit it Off
Felix became enamored with one of the guests whose name was Felice. She was the sister of Oscar’s ex-wife Blanche. At the airport, Oscar left for Sarasota, and Felix and Felice, finding they had much in common including their names, left together for New York.
Déjà vu All Over Again
The last scene of the film shows Oscar hosting his poker friends once more at his house. Felix walked in, explaining that his romance with Felice did not work out. He wondered if he might stay with Oscar for a while until he sorted things out.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film even though it won the Stinker Award. Perhaps only people of my generation would get the nuances about old age that were dropped so subtly. Oscar and Felix are like old friends. I for one enjoyed their antics.
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