"I just had the worst g--damned case of deja vu!" Felix Unger exclaims at the end of "Neil Simon's The Odd Couple II." Audiences are likely to agree.
Some patrons might not even know that this signals a return of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison to the big screen after a 30-year absence. In fact, the title almost seems odd. Shouldn't this be "The Odd Couple 5" or "Grumpy Old Men 4"?
With all the recent pairings of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon - including the appropriately named "Out to Sea" - doing variations on their "Odd Couple" characters (and then Lemmon recycling his on his own in "My Fellow Americans"), it's hard to wax nostalgic about an official sequel.
In Simon's follow-up script, Oscar (Matthau) is retired and living happily in Sarasota, Fla. His weekly poker games are now an assortment of pensioners (played mostly by female character actresses from various TV series). He gets a call from his son (Jonathan Silverman of TV's "The Single Guy") in California announcing he is going to be married - to Felix Unger's daughter.
Upon landing in Los Angeles, Oscar and Felix run into each other - literally. They decide to drive to the wedding together, and get lost in the countryside. Much bickering over their personality differences - in case you didn't know, Oscar's a slob, Felix is almost obsessively fastidious - and supposedly hilarious misadventures ensue.
The two men become a source of constant irritation to the local sheriff of the town in which they land. The pair get swept up with a couple of biker chicks (Christine Baranski and Jean Smart) doing a "Thelma and Holly" run from their drunken, gun-waving husbands; hitch a ride with an old man (Barnard Hughes) who drives only slightly slower after he's dead; and get mistaken for smugglers of illegal aliens.
Unfortunately, none of this is very funny. The plot is a mishmash of "The In-Laws," "Michael" and, in its worst sequence, "Weekend at Bernie's." The sneak-preview patrons with whom I saw this were, early on, willing to laugh every time Matthau or Lemmon opened their mouths, but they were pretty quiet after a half hour.
Old jokes abound - in every sense of the word "old." Aside from all of the body-function references, there are also some rather mean-spirited ethnic stereotypes and humor aimed at Spanish pronunciation of names. In an hour and a half of nonstop wisecracks, only a half dozen or so are at all funny.
The original "Odd Couple" film was character-driven, and occasionally looked too much like the filmed stageplay that it was. The new film just looks like a lame, made-for-television reunion movie. The biggest surprise is that the overrated but usually reliable Simon penned this mess, which has none of the snap, crackle, or pop of the original. At least he can't complain that somebody else spoiled the memory of his classic play.
Speaking of legacies, it's really hard to believe that Matthau and Lemmon, after having two of Hollywood's finer careers, want to go out as two-bit Abbott and Costellos of incontinence. Their "Grumpy Old Men" movies have hardly been classics, but "Odd Couple II" is the worst of the lot.