The latest tired collaboration from Jack Lemmon and
Walter Matthau is called OUT TO SEA, which is where screenwriter
Robert Nelson Jacobs should be sent. It's one more 100-minute
collection of lame jokes, one-note sitcom characters and chances for
Lemmon and Matthau to call each other "putz" and "schmuck" in
every scene. There aren't too many movies that are simultaneously
geriatric and childish, but OUT TO SEA manages to embarrass itself
on both counts.
This movie is essentially GRUMPY OLD MEN on a cruise
ship -- GRUMPY OLD MEN AND THE SEA. (I wonder how many
other movie critics, Internet and print, will think they coined that
one themselves.) Lemmon is a depressed widower who basically
keeps to his antique house, while Matthau is a compulsive gambler
who owes a few thousand to his bookie. The solution: why, isn't it
transparent? They'll go on a cruise and net some babes.
Small-time con man he is, Matthau signs himself and
Lemmon up as dance instructors so they won't have to pay for the
cruise. Lemmon can dance like Astaire livening up a bored night at
the nursing home, but Matthau can't dance a lick. It opens the door
for so many sitcom situations, like the inevitable montage in which
Lemmon tries to teach Matthau to dance (in a comically-bad way, of
course) and two men walk in on them during a tender slow-dance
moment. Call it "83's Company." Soon, Matthau is trying to
romance Dyan Cannon, plastic surgery casefile #459, and Lemmon
is trying to get over his ex-wife with a silver-haired siren.
For a bad movie, OUT TO SEA has a great supporting cast.
Most of them are aging, out-of-work actors who will apparently say
or do anything if a big enough carrot is dangled in front of them.
Donald "Make 'em Laugh" O'Conner is one of the genuine dance
instructors, and does a couple interesting tap numbers, but we all
know he'd dislocate a hip if he tried to duplicate his SINGIN' IN
THE RAIN wall flips. Hal "Barney Miller" Linden is another dance
instructor who has maybe five lines tops. Rue "Blanche"
McClenahan is the owner of the ship who is the victim of a
painfully bad dance with Matthau.
But the down-and-out prize goes to Brent "Data" Spiner,
who plays the movie's villain, a militant cruise director who relishes
his chance to perform cheesy song-and-dance numbers for captive
passengers. Spiner does well bringing the best-written character in
the movie to life, although like the others he still doesn't have a
whole lot to work with. Still, it's fun to watch Spiner do the lounge
act, knowing he released a real-life lounge failure album by the
name of "Old Yellow Eyes is Back."
OUT TO SEA was a lot of fun for the actors to make, I'm
sure. It comes complete with the usual grumpy old blooper reel that
has Lemmon and Matthau laughing and cussing it up, but each one
of these old fart movies gets increasingly hard to bear. The first
GRUMPY had a lot of funny moments, but the second was a seldom-
amusing rehash. OUT TO SEA, at its best, seems to contain the most
mediocre moments of both. Lemmon and Matthau, you were great in
the '60s but now you're a couple tired old men. The only way to
succeed now is to pick a script that's not as tired as you schmucks.
Geez, now I sound grumpy.
Copyright © 1997 Andrew Hicks