The Odd Couple II (1998)
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The Odd Couple is an undeniable classic of the 1960's. It's powered almost single-handedly by Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau's wonderful chemistry and saw them become one of the most famous buddy film pairings. It's great that despite the humungous gap (30 years!!!) between The Odd Couple and The Odd Couple II, Lemmon and Matthau returned with even Neil Simon coming back for writing duties while also being one of the producers.
The Odd Couple II is one of the rare movies in Neil Simon's repertoire that didn't begin as a stage play. It's the tenth and final film that pairs Lemmon/Matthau and was probably made in response to the financial success that Grumpy Old Men and Grumpier Old Men got. Both movies pretty much doubled their budgets at the box office so making a sequel to one of their best films was a surefire way of more box office gold no?
Seventeen years after Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) and Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) parted ways on semi-good terms, an unbelievable coincidence happens to bring them back together again. The son of Oscar and the daughter of Felix are getting married. Oscar still gambles in his untidy apartment and Felix is an obsessive and neurotic clean-freak who of course still has sinus problems. Both of them cross paths on their way to the wedding and bad luck seems to follow them the whole way on their road trip.
The first problem that plagues The Odd Couple II and probably the most important is that the leading actors don't have their comedic timing anymore. It's especially a problem for Walter Matthau who has some semi-alright material to say but doesn't have the chops anymore to make things funny. On a couple of occasions, the magic chemistry between Lemmon and Matthau is there but those moments are really rare and it's a little depressing to watch.
The whole movie honestly feels like the rented Oldsmobile that Oscar and Felix begin their trip in. It's comfortable in a marshmallow kind of way but it's musty, old looking and you know that there was a time when Oldsmobile made much better cars way back in the day. The humour feels old and past its best before date. It'd be easy to think that this movie came out 10 years earlier than it did. The jokes that Neil Simon has written aren't worth more than a little chuckle at times and Lemmon and Matthau seem to have broken their funny bones.
For the most part, it's a buddy/road movie which is a better option than what I thought The Odd Couple II would turn out to be. With the wedding storyline that's introduced at the beginning, I really thought this would turn into a family/wedding comedy movie which would be totally unfortunate. A movie with Oscar and Felix should be about them and only them, not about their families who should be in the background, practically invisible and only really heard through the telephone. Near the conclusion of The Odd Couple II, the movie turns exactly into what I was dreading! We don't care about the children of Oscar and Felix and I don't even want to know what Blanche looks like! There's no time in the movie that actually develops the romance between the children of Felix and Oscar anyway so why should I care about them? These scenes have no place in a movie calling itself The Odd Couple II.
It's nice having one of the best on-screen buddies do one last film together, even if the end result is like a forgotten piece of meat loaf hanging around the fridge after a couple of months. Alan Silvestri took on the score for The Odd Couple II but is way too reliant on the famous theme that doesn't feel special when it's heard every other ten minutes. On the whole, the film strays too far from the formula that made The Odd Couple great which was putting Oscar and Felix in one location and watching what happens. The big problem is that Matthau and Lemmon wouldn't have even been able to handle being the main focus anyhow which is pretty sad to see.
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