Warner Bros. | 1993 | 103 mins | Rated PG-13

Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon made ten films together (eleven, if you count Lemmon’s cameo in the Matthau vehicle Kotch). While they are undoubtedly best remembered for their pairing in 1968’s The Odd Couple, the two had an undeniable magic when paired on the screen together. Whether they were portraying bickering friends in The Odd Couple or scamming an insurance company in The Fortune Cookie, the two had a special chemistry. Therefore, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise when Grumpy Old Men became a box office hit. In truth, it’s probably not a great film but it does give Lemmon and Matthau an opportunity to shine and viewers a chance to laugh.

Grumpy Old MenLemmon and Matthau play two elderly, Minnesotan widowers — John Gustafson and Max Goldman, respectively — who’ve shared an ongoing, enduring rivalry that traces back to John’s marriage to Max’s childhood sweetheart. There dislike for each other only intensifies when a beautiful college professor, Ariel Truax (Ann-Margaret) moves in across the street. Both John and Max immediately set out and try to court her. Though I have to admit, it’s obvious pretty quickly whose going to win that battle. At the same time, John has to deal with a pesky IRS agent (Buck Henry) and his daughter’s (Daryl Hannah) marital woes, and Max has to contend with loneliness and a growing desire to make peace with his lifelong enemy.

Frankly, the screenplay, written by Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil, Ghost Rider), offers little in the way of plot; the film is at its best when Matthau and Lemmon are left to bicker. However, you can’t really have a movie without some sort of plot or story and that’s where the movie suffers. What we get are a series of underdeveloped characters and ideas. Melanie is separating from her husband; Kevin Pollak plays Jacob, Max’s single son, who’s running for town mayor and who has always had a crush on Melanie; and Ossie Davis as Chuck, the owner of a local bait shop and lunch counter However, these characters and their situations never get fully developed.

The best of the supporting actors is Burgess Meredith as Pop Gustafson. John’s randy, ninety-four-year-old father, who gets some of the film’s best lines and if he doesn’t make you laugh, check your funny bone. Ann-Margaret is still amazingly seductive looking here and vamps around in a way that adds fuel to the fights of John and Max.

Despite a weak plot, watching Lemmon and Matthau work together is still a pleasure. The two actors were professionals with a special chemistry that shone through, no matter the quality of the script. As a side note Grumpy Old Men contains an impressive score by Alan Silvestri, that made me think of The Odd Couple. Oh, when you do watch this Blu-ray, stick around for the closing credits; the accompanying gag reel is hilarious.

The first few minutes of this 1080p/VC-1 transfer contains some softness and edge enhancement but then thing markedly improve. Skintones are problematic (flushed at times, brown at others) but the filmic nature of the picture captures the texture of its original theatrical presentation quite well. Its moderate veneer of grain is rarely a distraction, detail is consistent with other faithful catalog presentations and clarity is generally good. Depth and dimensionality are commendable. Artifacting, banding, source noise, and aliasing are kept to a minimum. In the end, if you’re able to look past a few isssues, the Blu-ray edition of Grumpy Old Men looks pretty good.

The disc offers the choice of Dolby TrueHD 2.0 or Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The 2.0 exhibits no surround activity of its own, meaning that your receiver will have to simulate a rear-channel signal (in Pro Logic IIx, “Movie,” it sounds fines); there are limited bass and dynamic responses. However, the track has a natural mid-range, so it does exactly what it needs to do.

Like every previous release of the film, the Blu-ray edition of Grumpy Old Men doesn’t offer fans anything more than a theatrical trailer (SD, 2 minutes).

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