Grumpy Old Men (film)

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Grumpy Old Men
Grumpy Old Men .jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Donald Petrie
Produced by John Davis
Richard C. Berman
Written by Mark Steven Johnson
Starring Jack Lemmon
Walter Matthau
Burgess Meredith
Daryl Hannah
Kevin Pollak
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography John E. Jensen
Edited by Bonnie Koehler
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • December 25, 1993 (1993-12-25)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$35,100,000
Box office $70,172,621

Grumpy Old Men is a 1993 American romantic comedy film starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret, with Burgess Meredith, Daryl Hannah, Kevin Pollak, Katie Sagona, Ossie Davis and Buck Henry. Directed by Donald Petrie, the screenplay was written by Mark Steven Johnson, who also wrote the sequel, Grumpier Old Men (1995). The original music score was composed by Alan Silvestri. This was the sixth film starring both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau and their first on-screen pairing since 1981's Buddy Buddy.


Retired school teacher and divorcee John Gustafson (Lemmon) and former TV repairman and widower Max Goldman (Matthau), are former childhood friends and longtime next-door neighbors in Wabasha, Minnesota. Their rivalry began decades earlier when John had "stolen" Max's high school sweetheart, May, with whom John went on to marry and have two children with, daughter Melanie (Daryl Hannah) and son Brian (who died in Vietnam). Max went on to marry a woman named Amy, with whom he had his son Jacob (Kevin Pollak). Despite their differences, both men lead similar boring and lonely single lives, and share a mutual love of the Minnesota winter pastime of ice fishing, as well as competing, arguing, insulting, and pulling cruel practical jokes on each other whenever possible. A subplot of the film involves John's ongoing issues with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), owing thousands in back taxes, and his desperate attempts to avoid field agent Elliot Snyder (Buck Henry).

The vacant house across the street is being moved into, but neither Max or John know who the new neighbor is until both are awakened at 1:30 AM by the sound of a snowmobile racing up and down the street. They see their beautiful new neighbor is college professor Ariel Truax (Ann-Margret), a widow who quickly becomes the talk of the town with her exuberant lifestyle and bizarre tactics to get to know her new neighbors. Their mutual lifelong friend Chuck (Ossie Davis), who owns the lakeside bait shop, advises that they take advantage of the opportunity, as does John's 94-year old father, John Sr. (Burgess Meredith). Midway to the movie, John learns about Chuck's death and scolds Max when he mistakenly assumes that he's grieving for the loss of his chance with Ariel.

Ariel spends more time with John due to their shared professions as teachers and love for playing chess. The next day, he finally returns the beloved fishing rod his father found while fishing by putting it outside of Max's fishing shack. However, Max gets jealous that he's losing Ariel to John and intentionally pushes his ice fishing shack into the icy lake with his car. This leads to a confrontation when an offended John confronts him for the misdeed. Max accuses him of stealing Ariel away from him like he did with his sweetheart, May. John mentions that unlike Ariel, she wasn't worth anything and thinks he's an idiot for believing different. He reveals that he was unhappily married to May for 20 years and was actually saving Max from making a huge mistake. John tells Max off that had he married May, he would never had met Amy and had a happy marriage. Max agreed with him that she was the best thing in his life, but still could not forgive John for stealing May from him and cannot wait for another Ariel to come in his life. John Sr. shows up to break up the fight and tells both men to get along. Max closes the fight with warning John with a sticky fact about how he is going to be able to provide for Ariel when the Internal Revenue Service has finally seized his home in forcing him to pay off his taxes.

Even pondering that fact, that night, John decides to let Max win for once, but it leaves him in a severe depression since he fallen in love with Ariel, and with obligation having to hurt her just after to entice her to go with Max. This came to head during Christmas Eve dinner with Melanie, her daughter, Allie and her estranged husband, Mike (Christopher McDonald), whom John was not fond of. After Jacob's visit, John tells Melanie what he thinks about Mike and convinces her that she needs to go through with the divorce or she'll never be happy again. Over his new guilt over hurting Ariel, John finally loses it, tells Mike off to leave and storms off to the bar. Through enough arm twisting, Jacob finally convinces Max to try and reconcile with John and end their feud for once, which ends pretty poorly at the bar. At a bar, Max thanks him for finding his beloved fishing rod, but John is not in the mood. He reveals that he's depressed because he has fallen in love with Ariel and believes Max couldn't understand the emotions he went through in having to let her go. In addition to that having Ariel date Max, John's lack of fondness over Mike believing he was taking Melanie for granted and his problems with the IRS, causes him to return home frustrated with his life. However, Max follows him wanting to know why he let him win for once and finish their conversation. On the way home, John suffers a heart attack and Max helps get him to a hospital. At the hospital, he reconciles with John in the process, even knowing how much he could suddenly die. Realizing how much John loves Ariel, Max explains all that happened to her and convinces her to visit John at the hospital and reconcile with him.

As John is recovering well, Max learns about the debt he owes to the IRS which is over $57,000 and realizes that Snyder is being a bully in wanting to sell his house just so he can collect the money. He uses tools and plywood to barricade the doors so Snyder and the others can't get in. Max also manages to sneak a fish in to Snyder's car (a prank John used on him earlier) and convinces Jacob (now the newly elected Mayor of Wabasha) to help John get an extension so he can pay off the debt and keep his house. Melanie goes through with the divorce and starts a relationship with Jacob. John marries Ariel, but is on the receiving end of Max's prank. Max decides to go to the VFW to find a date for a New Year's Eve party hosted by the Daughters of the American Revolution.



Grumpy Old Men was one of the biggest surprise hits of the year at the time of its release.[1][2] The film opened on December 25, 1993 with a weekend gross of $3,874,911. However, its numbers gradually became stronger earning a domestic total of $70 million, well above its budget of $35 million.[3]

Critical reaction[edit]

The film was met with mixed to positive reviews by critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 67 percent of 36 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 5.9 out of 10.[4]

Caryn James of The New York Times called the film "the kind of holiday movie a lot of people are searching for." He went on to explain that the reason this is so because "It's cheerful, it's well under two hours and it doesn't concern any major social blights, unless you think Jack Lemmon tossing a dead fish into Walter Matthau's car is cause for alarm."[5] Despite a mixed review about the film's credibility and diction, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times concluded his review by saying that "Matthau and Lemmon are fun to see together, if for no other reason than just for the essence of their beings."[6] Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times said, "Watching Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau sparring with each other in Grumpy Old Men is like watching an old vaudeville routine for the umpteenth time." Rainer would add, "They play off their tics and wheezes with the practiced ease of old pros but there's something a bit too chummy and self-congratulatory about it all."[7]

American Film Institute recognition:

Home video[edit]

Grumpy Old Men was first released onto DVD on June 25, 1997. On August 22, 2006, the film was made available in a DVD "Double Feature" pack along with its sequel Grumpier Old Men. On July 7, 2009, the film was made available by itself on Blu-ray. The "Double Feature" pack was later released onto Blu-ray on Feb 23, 2010 and the Blu-ray releases mark the first time both films have been available in widescreen since the LaserDisc releases. None of the Blu-ray releases contain any special features.[9]


  1. ^ "Not Grumpy or Old". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Weekend Box Office : 'Mrs. Doubtfire' Still Cleaning Up". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Grumpy Old Men (1993) - Box Office Mojo". IMDB. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved September 12, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Grumpy Old Men". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 30, 20120.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Caryn James (December 24, 1993). "Review/Film; Cheerful, Short and No Big Blights". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (December 24, 1993). "Grumpy Old Men :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  7. ^ Peter Rainer (December 25, 1993). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Grumpy': Hearts, Flowers, Whoopee Cushions". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 1, 2012. 
  8. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved June 30, 2012. 
  9. ^ Broadwater, Casey (March 17, 2010). "Grumpy Old Men / Grumpier Old Men Blu-ray Review". Retrieved September 13, 2012. 

External links[edit]