Ossus Library Index Comedy Index


Directed by Martha Coolidge (1997, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Brent Spiner, and Dyan Cannon

Two men join the staff of a cruise ship in order to seduce some rich women.



3+ stars+

October 14th, 2000 on Video  

Not only funny, but also very well acted.  Until the end, which was fairly weak, everything was extremely well done.

These two guys can act, and they have very good chemistry whenever they are together.  One of the women from Ally McBeal, Whipper, played the young "chick", and was much better, and very much prettier, here, than she ever was on the TV show.  But the best performance of them all belonged to Brent Spiner, Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He played the cruise director, and was able to convey such an incredible range of emotions and voices that I very much anticipated every scene with him in it.

The beginning of the movie seemed not to fit with the rest of it.  But it does show what gambler Charlie is, and how much money he owes.  Which sets up the stage for his money-making scheme: pose as dance coaches on a Mexican cruise in order to woo some rich women and get all their money.  His widower brother-in-law, Herb, wants nothing to do with the scheme, but somehow finds himself on the ship.  On the way, Charlie sits in the wrong first-class seats, and then Herb ends up tripping over the bags of the same woman whose seat they were sitting in on the plane.  Of course Vivian ends up being the love of his life, the one he thought he would never find again, after his wife died. 

Charlie does not know how to dance, but he expects Herb to show him.  That scene is kind of fun, but not as fun, or as funny, as watching Charlie skip out on the dancing to gamble with the high-class folks.  He finds a good looking woman, who is less than half his age, and tries to steal her away from the man who is currently accompanying her.  He goes on excursions with her, gambles with her, eats with her, and eventually sleeps with her.  And during the eclipse, while he is trying to propose to her, she says they should get married. 

Meanwhile, Herb is dancing, and is dancing very well.  He and his wife had danced right up until her death, and it shows.  Vivian is suitably impressed, but deduces that he doesn't want to commit to a relationship.  He has to win her back, from a rambling archaeologist.  This guy is a very dry speaker, and it's hilarious to see everybody's reactions to him.  They agree to meet for the eclipse, but just before Herb leaves, the nurse who took care of his wife in the hospital shows up, and they have a nostalgic conversation that leads Herb to realize that he's still in love with, and mourning for, his wife.  So Vivian is left sitting in a café, lonely while the rest of the passengers watch the eclipse (which was fairly well done, I think).

But the best lines of the show go to Gil, the cruise director.  He is a rude control freak, who grew up on a military base, and expects everybody to follow his orders and to fear him.  He has a British accent, and a moustache, and for a few minutes, I almost didn't recognize him.  He introduces himself from off-stage, he sings many of the songs, and makes every attempt to get on the good side of the cruise ship's owner, who is just about ready to promote him. 

Except, of course, that he can't keep Charlie in line.  He sees Charlie on an excursion, and ends up riding a bull while wearing a flaming hat.  He watches in horror as Charlie dances with the woman who is to promote him, dragging her along the dance floor in a truly hideous version of the dance they are supposed to be doing.  To get Gil out of the way, Charlie sets him up for a night of passion at the hands of his boss, an offer he can't refuse, if he wants the promotion.  Or so he thinks. 

Gil sees Charlie about to go off to get married, and reveals to his fiancée that he is only a lowly dance host, and she dumps him on the spot.  Because, in a terrifically realized scene that took me completely by surprise, she reveals that she is flat broke, and spent her last dime on this cruise, hoping to attract the attention and affections of a millionaire. 

Charlie and Herb decide to take a lifeboat to go and catch their women, who have left the ship, and have become stranded in a four person airplane with a crazy Mexican pilot!  Because of a lame story Herb told Vivian earlier in the movie, she sees the flare he sends up, and knows that he's come for her.  She has the plane turn around and land again.

Charlie and Liz realize that each of them is broke, but they love each other anyway, and Herb and Vivian both have pretty-good incomes, and have loved each other from the start.  They all fly off, and presumably live happily ever after. 

The couples were well-chosen, because both of them had real chemistry, even if Charlie was so much Liz's senior.  It made for a very entertaining time, because there was never a moment when anybody seemed even remotely fake.  This despite the fact that every one of them (except perhaps Vivian) was hiding something, and really were fake. 

It sounded to me like Brent Spiner actually sang the songs, and he did a great job.  It is impossible to describe the antics that he plays, but he does them so well that I have to at least mention them!  His voices and faces, and the way he carried himself, were so well done, that his mere presence caused me to laugh.  He never gets the promotion, because he threatens Charlie and Herb, in the lifeboat, that when the "old hag" gives him the promotion, he will make sure that they never work another cruise line ever.  But, of course, she is standing right behind him.  Oops!

The comedy was well-developed through the entire movie, so that there were no slow spots, and the laughs were nearly constant.  But beyond that, the lead actors were so terrific, namely Lemmon, Matthau and Spiner, that it was a joy to watch them, even if the comedy had not been as good as it was.


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