There are few great comical pairings that stand the test of time and not only did Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon show that they could be funny in the “old days,” but they could also still send audiences into righteous laughter. While the 90s was a playing ground for a handful of Lemmon and Matthau pairings, it was only the Grumpy Old Men films that garnered much interest (and even that was fleeting, as a third film in the series was eventually scrapped due to poor reception of their other pair-ups). Now fans can own the first installment in the series on Blu-ray for the first time, with Grumpy Old Men arriving on the next-generation format.
Two elderly, eccentric, next-door neighbors sustain a rancorous relationship that only a wise observer could recognize as a very special friendship. When a lonely, flamboyant, middle-aged widow moves in across the street from them, the male rivalry begins. One of the great screen duos of all time — Oscar-winners Jack Lemmon (“Glengarry Glen Ross,” “The China Syndrome,” “Missing”) and Walter Matthau (“Dennis the Menace,” “JFK”) — reunite in this romantic comedy that examines the decades-old love-hate relationship between two neighbors and the way their lives are thrown into total upheaval when a lovely, free-spirited widow moves in across the street. Co-starring the always-seductive Ann Margret (“Carnal Knowledge”), Daryl Hannah (“Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”) and Kevin Pollack (“A Few Good Men”).
Grumpy Old Men was always a favorite round my house, as there is fewer things funnier than two old men calling each other names repeatedly for an hour and a half. Granted the film is a lot more serious and romantic than I recall it as a kid, but nonetheless the film definitely held up even watching it all these years later. It’s no timeless classic like the other Lemmon and Matthau pairings, but for a modern flick with two old farts in it, it was a much better film than anyone could have expected from a film that was cast with few young faces.
At its core Grumpy Old Men delivers the same themes of friendship and romance that so many other romantic comedies have done over the years, but there’s just something unique about it in that it casts aging gentleman in the roles rather than some hot Hollywood talent. It’s a shame that Matthau and Lemmon have both since passed, as I would’ve loved to have heard their thoughts about making this film (the Blu-ray contains no extras) and what it was like doing so many movies together. No doubt they’ve done such interviews on other home video releases, but mainly just because of how much I grew up with these two films I’m more interested in what specifically would relate to this film…but alas, no such chance.
Lemmon and Matthau aren’t the only two men to dirty things up in the film either; Burgess Meredith makes an appearance as the father of Lemmon and the mouth that they gave his character when compared to the other two is really quite hilarious in its own right. I’m sure many would call a bunch of old men talking about sex and calling each other “dickheads” not funny or some kind of tired, old shtick…but, honestly you don’t see it as much lately. Sure you see the occasional “quirky” character in a film like Wedding Crashers or something, but rarely do you see an entire movie centered around them anymore.
The film plays it by the books fairly closely and really is predictable for the most part, but it’s still a highly enjoyable film. There’s tears to be shed for characters that pass on in the film as well as the friendship between Matthau and Lemmon that eventually reconciles towards the end. I would love to see the second film on Blu-ray at some point to complete the collection as the DVDs out currently are less than satisfactory. For anyone who hasn’t seen this film, it’s really just a romantic comedy with old people—but it’s also got a lot of heart and charm to it as well. Recommended.
I know what you’re thinking—why on earth does this movie need to be on Blu-ray? I thought the same thing, until I remembered that the previous releases this film has received on DVD were all in fullscreen. The film itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with the usual firmware upgrade notice insert. Disc art mimics the front cover and there’s no real menu to speak of—there’s a single theatrical trailer for the film (in standard definition to boot) to check out and nothing else. Audio options are also nearly non-existent, but we’ll get to those in a bit.
The main appeal of this release is the 1080p VC-1 encoded 1.85:1 widescreen transfer that this film finally receives. Unless I’m just reading it wrong and there was a widescreen edition of it released at some point, this is the first time we get the film in its proper aspect ratio in something that isn’t a LaserDisc. Granted the film isn’t one that screams a need to be seen in high-definition, but the transfer is pretty enjoyable for what it is; a few genuinely amazing spots are sprinkled here and there, but after a horrendous looking opening (like Fargo bad. What is it with these movies loaded with snow and their blurry openings?) the film clears up to be quite enjoyable.
Oddly enough the audio is a full Dolby TrueHD track…but in 2.0 audio. Again, this isn’t a film that needs some luxurious 5.1 track but…seriously? TrueHD 2.0? That’s a first. Then again it’s not a real big surprise to see oddities come from Warner, they seem to be the only studio who constantly releases strange Blu-ray releases, from 4×3 video to 2.0 audio. Crazy stuff.
Overall this barebones release is only worth getting if…well, actually it’s worth getting just because there’s no other widescreen variant readily available. Recommended for that reason alone.
Grumpy Old Men is now available on Blu-ray.