Some movies have dog written all over them. The more I saw the
trailers to OUT TO SEA, the more I dreaded its screening. But
sometimes, even seemingly hopeless films can prove better than one has
any reason to expect. So it is with OUT TO SEA, a romantic buddy
picture starring Walter Matthau (I'M NOT RAPPAPORT) and Jack Lemmon (MY
FELLOW AMERICANS) as cruise dance hosts, Charlie and Herb.
For our screening, they bussed in a load of seniors from a local
retirement home, but everyone, young and old, in the audience laughed
right along with old pros Matthau and Lemmon. Still, I would be remise
if I did not admit that the show will be better received by the older
folks than the younger ones. For those of us who can appreciate
angst-filled Gen X movies, action thrillers, and chick flicks, surely
we can enjoy the humor from a couple of film veterans in their 70s. As
the ending credits rolled (complete with sweet dance numbers followed
by some hilarious out-takes), my wife and I gave each other a
Ever conniving gambler Walter has conned Jack into joining him on
a "free" cruise. Once on board, Jack realizes that to get their tiny
cabins, Walter has signed them up as dance hosts.
Walter spends his time on the ship avoiding dancing through
various ruses while ogling the passengers. ("Did you see the chassis
on that broad? I bet she's worth a fortune.")
At this point in the show, I sat there smugly confident that my
prediction of bomb would be right. Then a strange thing begin to
happen. As I watched the actors, their genuineness begin to take hold.
A bit hunched over, they had charisma and style, and they crafted
characters that were compelling even if sometimes too outlandish.
Brent Spiner (Lt. Cmdr. Data from STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT) plays
prissy Gil Godwyn, the CD (Cruise Director), who is "a bit of a Nazi."
He demands obedience from his dance hosts and thus is constantly at
odds with Charlie.
Lemon plays his part seriously. Herb is filled with absolute
terror at the idea of dancing with a horde of spinsters and widows. As
they descend on the poor hosts at the first dance of the cruise, he
reflects, "It's just like the beach at Normandy."
Surprisingly, the best part of the picture is a realistic romance
between Charlie and a gold digger named Liz LaBreche played with
infectious fun by Dyan Cannon. Cannon, who is just a few months shy of
60, looks extremely sexy and 20 to 25 years younger. Cannon is a two
time Oscar nominee whom I had not thought about in years. With her
lively performance in the film, she holds her own against the two
Liz shares her large stateroom with her tough talking mom, Mrs.
Carruthers (Rue McClanahan), who sounds like she eats nails for
breakfast and who looks a few years younger than Charlie. "I saw the
way you were looking at my daughter's breasts," Liz warns Charlie.
Without missing a beat, he shoots back, "I used to a cardiologist."
Lonely Herb provides the show with poignancy. He was married for
47 years, and his dead wife still has his heart. He shocks himself by
falling head over heels in love with a passenger named Vivian (Gloria
DeHaven) and she with him until a misunderstanding comes between them.
Charlie advises his old buddy not to give up. ("No such thing as too
late. That's why they invented death.")
Audience reactions can sometimes add to the movie-going
experience. So it was at our screening. When Herb planted a big
(closed mouth) kiss on Vivian, our audience went "oooh" almost in
unison, with the younger ones making the loudest sounds. It was as if
there were subliminal clue cards flickering on the screen.
Soon after Charlie and Herb first board the ship, cruise host
Jonathan (Donald O'Connor) asks them if they have any questions. "Yea,
I have a question," Herb blurts out. "How do you get off this ship?"
You may feel the same way in the beginning, but stay aboard and get
your sea legs. You'll meet some new friends and have some good laughs
with them. Certainly not the best cruise of your cinematic life, but a
pleasurable one nevertheless.
OUT TO SEA runs about 1:45. It is rated PG-13 for a little mild
language and some sexual humor. The show would be fine for kids of any
age, but they would probably need to be nine or so to enjoy it. I
can't believe it, but I am actually recommending this show, not only to
the seniors, who should especially love it, but to a general audience.
It gets ** 1/2.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes