Through cinema history there have been amazing comedic duos. Laurel and Hardy might jump to mind or Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. My all time favorite comedic duo though are two actors who both have appeared in great movies and together always are a joy to watch: Walther Matthau and Jack Lemmon. This is the movie which started my appreciation of their work and made me check out a lot of their earlier stuff.
They play two neighbours, John Gustafson (Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Matthau), who haven’t been the best of friends for a long time. They always try to do something to annoy the other (like leaving a fish to rot in a car). When a new neighbour arrives, Ariel Truax (Ann-Margret) the rivalry even takes on a more extreme form as they both want to win the heart of this energetic woman, who pushes them both to try out things they have never done before. It results in a movie filled with funny situations, some which may be silly or childish, but it’s that simple kind of humour which makes it so entertaining to watch. It’s all innocent stuff, which can be enjoyed by all ages.
Matthau and Lemmon play off each other well and they make you believe these two people really can’t stand each other. They give a humanity to the roles they are playing, two elderly men who suddenly feel part of their youth come back. The movie hardly makes jokes about their age and more about the situation they are in. If there is another actor worth mentioning, it is Burgess Meredith, who plays Lemmon’s father. All of his lines are funny and the outtakes at the end of the movie the funniest there are. This movie didn’t break new ground and hasn’t got a mind blowing story, but it is very good entertainment and a joy to (re)watch.