Mediocre: The Odd Couple II

The Odd Couple II (1998)
Directed by Howard Deutch
Written by Neil Simon
Produced by Robert W. Cort, David Madden, Neil Simon, Elena Spiotta
Starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Mary Beth Peil, Jonathan Silverman, Lisa Waltz, Richard Riehle, Christine Baranski, Jean Smart
Thirty years elapsed between the filmic success of Simon’s lovably insufferable squabblers and this reunion miscalculated to capitalize on the revived popularity of two much older, grumpier men. Lemmon’s carping, persnickety hypochondriac and Matthau’s insouciantly inept sloven bicker en route through picturesque rural California to the wedding of Felix’s daughter (Peil) and Oscar’s son (Silverman), sustaining afoot lost luggage, a detonated rental car, Mexican smugglers, an impendent corpse (Barnard Hughes), redneck hussies (Baranski, Smart) and one another, their recriminative irritation meliorated not a jot in their advanced years. Approximately one of Simon’s every four cracks and gags is legitimately funny (a miserably promising ratio by contemporary standards), and his leading men optimize these with unerring comic timing and persisting chemistry. Alas, uncoordinated direction by Deutch — who’s never managed a decent film without John Hughes’ patronage — and Seth Flaum’s horrendous editing often spoil whatever the stars salvage; after every other punch line, poorly composed shots either cut away abruptly or linger too long. Still worse, Alan Silvestri’s twee, drippy score (possibly his very worst) loudly and repeatedly diverts from rather than complementing any onscreen humor. Silverman plays Oscar’s son as a cloying candy-ass and inadvertent warning against the folly of flighty single motherhood, but the supporting cast is otherwise tolerable, notwithstanding Baranski in a creepily carnal context. It’s all paltry and far too late for a priceless pair whose audience was expeditiously expiring by the late ’90s, and ought’ve been exploited decades earlier: in lieu of the negligible telecast series, Lemmon and Matthau might have been reunited in a quartet of theatrical sequels circa ’71-’86, scripted by the likes of Andrew Bergman and helmed by proven comedic directors such as Ramis or Hiller. Instead, this final outing by one of Old Hollywood’s most gifted twosomes finds them struggling to modest yet meritorious achievement in their twilight years to excite a few laughs in a barely mediocre vehicle.

Execrable: The Night We Never Met

The Night We Never Met (1993)
Directed and written by Warren Leight
Produced by Michael Peyser, Robert De Niro, Rudd Simmons, Mary Ann Page, Janet Graham, Daniel Rogosin, Susan Seidelman, Sidney Kimmel, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Starring Matthew Broderick, Annabella Sciorra, Kevin Anderson, Justine Bateman, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tim Guinee, Michelle Hurst, Christine Baranski
Leight’s insipidly indirect contribution to the surplusage of charmless, unfunny, independently produced romantic comedies that glutted American theaters in the ’90s contains all the earmarks of its genus: smarm substituted for sarcasm, painfully proportionate protraction and predictability, and an abject absence of agreeable characters. Obstructed and repelled by the slovenly roommates with whom he shares a flyblown apartment, a precious, superficially cultured delicatesseur (Broderick, at his career’s nadir) employed at Dean & DeLuca who harbors a restauranteur’s aspirations sublets more comfortable and commodious lodgings from a scummily sexist broker (Anderson) biweekly, as does a miserably married dental assistant (Sciorra) who luxuriates only in her painterly avocation. Both men (and the audience) tolerate dismal women: ever a milksop, the fromagier dotes on a dimwitted performance artist (Tripplehorn, burlesquing an atrocious French accent) who works him like her personal punch press, while his piggish landlord’s engaged to magisterial and neanderthaloid dullard Bateman, who couldn’t be more suitable for the role of a dense virago. By correspondence and favors, both of the desperate leaseholders (who repeatedly, adorably miss one other) establish a remote sympathy, but enduringly discommodious misapprehensions characteristic of a plot belabored during a sitcom’s seventh season separate them until a distinctly underwhelming conclusion. It’s far worse a rigor than most flicks of its subgenre: plodding formulaically through its three hoary acts — every development of which any child could readily presage — character development is advanced an inch in toto through wearily dilatory sequences clumsily punctuated by ill-timed fades and lousy editing to the jazzy twee of Evan Lurie’s unbearable score, all parading the inefficiencies of the writer-director and his post-production staff. An apish, clamorous tantrum provoked from Bateman briefly dispels supreme tedium, but cameos from Garry Shandling and Louise Lasser only remind viewers that they could instead be watching something worthwhile, or at least humorous. Impressively, Leight fulfilled what ought be an impossibility by raising the funds to produce an ostensive comedy void of a single amusing scene.