Wednesday, August 11, 2010

1968 - THE ODD COUPLE, Matthau's great Lemmon's not great

Walter Matthau is funny as Oscar Madison, but Jack Lemmon is way off with his very mechanical performance as Felix Unger in the famous Neil Simon stage comedy.  This film adaptation is not much of a film adaptation, there are fade outs where the acts of the play clearly ended and the scenes in New York City are obviously padded to try to make this film actually seem like a film.

It's easy to dislike Neil Simon's tiresome gag loaded dialog, it all plays like an extended boring sitcom.  The situation is funny enough but Neil Simon who started in television writing sketch comedy writes all his dialog like it is sketch comedy.  Still he was a very popular playwright on Broadway for many years with his brand of mediocre humor.

The chief offender in The Odd Couple is Jack Lemmon.  He was once considered one of the best comedians in the entertainment business.  Lemmon  started in films in 1954 as a pretty funny guy but by 1964 the bloom was definitely off the rose.  Lemmon's performance is so poor that he makes it impossible to believe he would be in a weekly poker game with anyone, much less be friends with anyone.

This film is a good contrast to the TV series which ran a long time on ABC.  Tony Randall and Jack Klugman played the leads in the series,and they were skilled enough actors to make viewers believe that Felix and Oscar could be close friends if very different individuals.

For as bad as The Odd Couple is, and it is very bad.  This is an important film.  Neil Simon's success with this play and film was a direct inspiration for almost every mismatched roommate, buddy comedy, or buddy comedy cop film that has come out in the last forty years.

 106 so so comedy minutes.

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