Synopsis: Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are joined by a legendary all-star cast in this hilarious high-seas adventure. In search of lonely ladies with big bang accounts, happy-go-lucky Charlie (Matthau) cons his widower brother-in-law Herb (Lemmon) into joining him on an all-expenses-paid luxury cruise-with them signed on as dance hosts! Under the watchful eye of a crooning cruise director (Brent Spiner), the two men soon find themselves in rough water as Charlie pursues a wealthy socialite (Dyan Cannon) and Herb encounters an unexpected romance of his own.
Out to Sea 5.5
Frankly, my only feeling while watching this is that it was geared towards seniors, no more. Except that I couldn’t help thinking that there’s no reason why a film with older actors should be so darned stale. I mean, Lemmon and Matthau managed to bring vitality to such singularly simple material as ‘Grumpy Old Men’, so why is this so bland? (It’s a rhetorical question, ’cause I suspect that the writing was a notch better in ‘Old Men’ and that there’s nothing Matthau and Lemmon could do with this one! )
The real highlight is Dyan Cannon, who injects a youthfulness in the proceedings that was impressive considering her age at the time (59 or 60!). In ‘Out to Sea’, she has this effortless and enchanting laugh that is so endearing that it makes me want to see her other films – even though I already have and never really found her that interesting before (mind you, I mostly remember ‘The Revenge of the Pink Panther’ and ‘Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice’).
One sad thing, however, is the amount of surgery she’d had by then – I can barely recognize her! Her face has this weird quality to it that would leave me quizzical even if I didn’t know better. And there’s no possible explanation for such a body on someone bordering on being a senior citizen. Madness! Don’t get me wrong: a part of me is glad that she shows it off. But another is left completely stunned.
Brent Spiner is also very good here. He makes the most of his clichéd role and reheated material and actually breathes some life in it (although there are painful moments when I could only imagine him wondering what he was doing there! ). In particular, he does this fantastically horrible rendition of “Oye Como Va” that should go down in history. He plays it straight, not camp, as though his character doesn’t realize just how terrible it is – and it’s just so perfect.
The rest of the cast, however, including Lemmon and Matthau, are snoozing their way through this unengaging, paint-by-numbers piece (of cardboard). The best bits are the moments when the actors were clearly improvising, such as in Matthau and Lemmon’s dance lessons. It’s not great, but it’s finally alive.
In fact, the best part of the film are the end credits, because it shows a bunch of out-takes and improv sequences that didn’t make the cut. While this sort of thing doesn’t always appeal to me, the cast finally has chemistry here and it was nice to see. They also have this fun way of introducing the cast: by having them do solo dance numbers as the credits roll. Surprisingly, I quite enjoyed this bit; I thought it was novel and it quite amusing.
A surprising technical highlight of this film is its immersive soundtrack. Not only is it exceptional for a film of this genre, but also for a film almost 15 years old; the festivities were full of rhythm and ambient sounds, the outdoors were alive – it was quite a nice experience. It didn’t make up for the rest of the film, but it was a welcome compensatory treat.
I wish that I could otherwise recommend ‘Out to Sea’, but there’s hardly anything worth seeing here that one can’t find elsewhere, and in a better package. Not even Lemmon and Matthau are really worth the time; it’s one of the weakest match-ups of their decades-old partnership. I’d suggest leaving this one to drift away, forgotten by time. They could have done better, and you can too.