Out to Sea
Directed by Martha Coolidge. Starring Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Dyan Cannon, Gloria De Haven, Brent Spiner, Elaine Stritch, Hal Linden, Donald O'Connor, Edward Mulhare, Rue Mcclanahan. (1997, PG-13, 107 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 4, 1997
Out to Sea: Boy, howdy… that's the truth. This one misses the boat by several nautical miles. Out to Sea is the 10th pairing of that “grumpy old men odd couple,” Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, and believe me, I will happily defend the duo's first eight pictures and even hold fond hope for the 11th: an Odd Couple sequel that's already in the works. But with their last two pairings, Grumpier Old Men and Out to Sea, Matthau and Lemmon appear to be churning these comedies out like aged cheese. Comfortable familiarity and low-impact nudges to geriatric funny bones do not begin to compensate for the absence of solid scripting, unified narrative direction, and focused comic drive. The film is organized around tepid gags which, on the whole, are neither terribly funny nor original. We've seen these guys do all this material before -- and better. It's as though now that George Burns is not around to do any more Oh God pictures, Lemmon and Matthau have figured they've got a lock on a certain niche market and have decided to milk it for all it's worth -- script or no script. (The screenplay is by newcomer Robert Nelson Jacobs.) Out to Sea is clearly designed to be a summer alternative and is unapologetically targeted toward an older audience that might still associate such names as Gloria De Haven and Donald O'Connor with marquee value. For distributor Twentieth Century Fox, this hasn't been the best of summers when it comes to water flicks: first Titanic steered off course, then their surefire Speed 2 started coming up with rather soggy box-office figures, and now this hip-replacement rhumba into the Caribbean. Out to Sea's plot has brothers-in-law Matthau and Lemmon posing as dance hosts aboard a cruise ship; however, the set-up yields very little in the way of comic escapades. Out to find rich widows, Lemmon finds himself falling in love with the ageless Gloria De Haven while Matthau zeroes in on the comely blonde occupying the ship's stateroom (Dyan Cannon). Fellow dance hosts played by Hal Linden and Donald O'Connor are painfully underused, although their personality-free characters are much less frightening than Elaine Stritch's wiseacre battle-ax or Rue McClanahan's vain, sex-starved cruise-ship owner. Matthau (who may be the only person in the movie who looks his age) and Cannon (who looks way too disturbingly young for her age) make for an odd and unsettling romantic coupling. Stealing the show is Star Trek's Brent Spiner as the ship's supercilious twit of an entertainment director. “I'm your worst nightmare,” he warns early on, “a song-and-dance-man raised in the military.” His stage routines are truly sights to behold. Director Martha Coolidge, whose wonderful early films such as Valley Girl, Real Genius, and Rambling Rose starred such strong teen characters, is stumbling badly in her more recent work (Geena Davis' star turn as Angie, the film version of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers, and the fantasy romance Three Wishes). Out to Sea is not likely to land her back on terra firma.