They are, indeed, grumpier and even funnier, the two feisty fishermen in “Grumpier Old Men,” which re-pairs Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as a duo of battling anglers. About the only thing different in this fish story sequel is that the weather’s much better (a color-filled autumn) and there’s a new woman in town (Sophia Loren), both added improvements.
Once again, life pretty much revolves around fishing for next-door neighbors and longtime competitors John (Lemmon) and Max (Matthau). Although John enjoys the benefits of newly wedded bliss with his former neighbor, the beauteous Ariel (Ann-Margret), he’s still got his priorities straight: Fishing comes first.
Every morning, John and Max embark nearly simultaneously to their favorite watering hole - that is, lake - to attempt to snare the big one - in this case, a massive fish, “Catfish Hunter,” that has become the legend of the lake, evading fishermen, including John’s full-of-vinegar, 95-year-old father (Burgess Meredith). They’ve got their routine and like most old coots, they don’t take kindly to change, which comes in the curvaceous form of an Italian woman (Loren) and her elderly mother.
In John and Max’s land of sky-blue waters, there are not many Italian women and, alas, Maria proves a fish out of water. To John and Max’s considerable consternation, she decides to turn their vaunted bait shop and hangout into an upscale Italian eatery. This does not set well with them. What to do? Well, what any upstanding senior would do - sabotage the joint.
While the plot line is not all that much different or more sophisticated than prototypical boys-vs.-girls scenarios in kids’ films, screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson has hooked together a brainy and somewhat bawdy yarn that’s part romance, part “Odd Couple” and part slice of Middle Americana.
As sparkling as one of those old-time Hamms beer pictures of a sparkling lake that used to shimmer in small-town taverns, “Grumpier Old Men” is a comic refreshment, full of fizz and down-home yucks.
As ever, Lemmon and Matthau are a hoot as battling buddies, while Ann-Margret once again brings a solid sense of maturity to counterpoint their little boy antics. Loren adds sexy spice to this comic mix, although it’s Meredith who steals the show with his rip-snorting portrayal of a 95-year-old skirt chaser.
MEMO: 1. Two sidebars appeared with the story: “Grumpier Old Men” Location: East Sprague, North Division and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Howard Deutch, starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, AnnMargret, Sophia Loren and Burgess Meredith Running time: 1:41 Rating: PG-13 2. Other view Jay Boyar/Orlando Sentinel: “Grumpy Old Men” wasn’t my idea of a comedy classic. I mean, was it anyone’s? But at least part of the time, the movie got by on the considerable charm of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. As things have turned out, I feel much the same about “Grumpier Old Men” as I did about the original. Only more so. The new film’s plot is hopeless. But the actors - including the supporting ones - are so charming that they get you through the darned thing. Or through parts of it, anyway.