A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Grumpy Old Men is a comedy with adult themes (jealousy, lifelong rivalries, and seniors' interest in sex) -- all treated lightheartedly. The intended humor comes from constant name-calling (i.e., "idiot," "moron," "ass-wipe," "putz") and jokes about sexual aptitude. A few falls in snow and a short tussle between the two "grumpy" men provide the only action -- nothing is serious. The movie delivers comfortable messages about the older people finding happiness, repairing damaged friendships, and positive relationships between seniors and their adult children. (Spoiler Alert -- a supporting character dies off camera, and a leading character suffers a heart attack and ends up on life support for a short time). Characters drink adult beverages in several scenes; one very old man smokes and is portrayed as a lecherous alcoholic. There is quite a bit of salty language: "p---y," "d--khead," "bulls--t."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In GRUMPY OLD MEN, snow is falling in Minnesota; the holidays are coming. John Gustafson (Jack Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Walter Matthau) are next-door neighbors who've been feuding for decades. They delight only in ice-fishing and their hatred for one another, expressed by their joy in constantly creating new and more ridiculous insults to hurl across the yard. Unbeknownst to Max, however, John is in trouble with the IRS, desperate not to lose his home, and he is scared.
When the beautiful and sexy Ariel Truax (Ann-Margret) moves in across the street, the rivalry intensifies. Both John's and Max's sexual appetites, dormant for a long while, appear afresh, turning them into the lustful teenage foes they once were. Ariel's considerable attention to both of them, as well as increasing pressure from the taxman, bring events to crisis point.
Is it any good?
Everything in this film is exaggerated, especially performances by Ann-Margret and Burgess Meredith. The beloved Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, well into their stellar careers, made a series of these mildly raunchy hit comedies together. Audiences flocked to see the two stars despite the thin, predictable plots and one-dimensional characters. Grumpy Old Men is the first in the series (followed by Grumpier Old Men and Out to Sea). There's a sweet flirtation between John's daughter and Max's son, but other than that -- and the naughtiness of non-stop insults -- the movie will probably not appeal to kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that the name-calling in this movie is meant to be funny. When does silly name-calling become bullying? How do you know the difference?
Do the characters in Grumpy Old Mean seem real to you? How are they the same or different from the older people you know?
What are some of the things you can learn from grandparents and other senior adults in your life?
- In theaters: December 24, 1993
- On DVD or streaming: August 27, 1997
- Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret
- Director: Donald Petrie
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some sexual references
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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