Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau join up with Hal Linden, Donald O’Connor, Dyan Cannon and Brent Spiner to romp through a gold digger adventure upon the high seas on the way to a total solar eclipse for cruise passengers in their golden years. Out to Sea (1997) is replete with comedy, romance and singing and dancing, and although Donald O’Connor doesn’t dance off walls the way he did in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, he does demonstrate that he can still fly high with taps on his feet.
Walter Matthau plays Charlie Gordon, an inveterate gambler who is very often down on his luck and whose sister married a great, devoted sales clerk at a men’s clothing store. On the day the story opens, Jack Lemmon, as widower Herb Sullivan, is celebrating what would have been his 45th wedding anniversary (never mind it’s a day late) and Charlie has just won and lost $1,000 at the horse races. When Charlie shows up at Herb’s house, interrupting the preparations for Herb’s anniversary dinner meal (who, by the way, though now a widower, is still devoted), he offers Herb one of two tickets to a Deluxe Accommodations Cruise to South America to see the solar eclipse, neglecting, of course, to tell him that they will be traveling as Dance Hosts.
It’s to our advantage that Charlie spares Herb the details of their travel because the omission leads us to some enjoyable movie minutes, such as when Dyan Cannon (still gorgeous) is introduced as Liz LaBreche, a rich divorcee traveling with her mother (played by Elaine Stritch). When Herb learns the truth of their cruise conditions, courtesy of their quarters below decks complete with en-suite bathroom shared by two other Dance Hosts (O’Connor and still strikingly handsome Hal Linden), he flys up the many stairways to the gangplank—if he can only find it—and stumbles across the second heroine Vivian, a bereaved widow, played by Gloria De Haven, who has come on the cruise with her watchfully loving daughter and son-in-law.
While Herb reluctantly fills his duties as Dance Host (having missed the gangplank) to the drill sergeant personality but melodic tones of Cruise Director Gil Godwyn (played beautifully by Brent Spiner, best known for his beloved role as Data in "Star Trek: The Next Generation"), Charlie looks for action in the casino in the form of a wealthy unmarried woman to charm—while testing his sea cruise gambling luck, of course.
The story unfolds to the antics of Matthau and Spiner as they avoid and chase each other and the blooming—or not so blooming—romance that Vivian is looking for and Herb is trying to dodge. There is also plenty of plot help from cruise ship owner Rue McClanahan (of “The Golden Girls” fame) and female dance guests, along with enough dancing to cause some to look up the phone number for Arthur Murray’s Dance Studio.
In the end, Charlie has a meaningful change of heart (if not of habits) and Herb overcomes the shroud of bereavement eclipsing his heart. Out to Sea is a delightful comedy romance drama movie that will be a joy for the whole entire family to watch.
Out to Sea (1997)
Martha Coolidge – Director
(The Prince & Me (2004); Material Girls (2006))
Robert Nelson Jacobs – Screenplay writer
(Chocolat (2000); The Water Horse (2007))
Jack Lemmon – Herb Sullivan
(Days of Wine and Roses (1962); The Odd Couple (1968))
Walter Matthau – Charlie Gordon
(The Odd Couple (1968))
Dyan Cannon – Liz LaBreche
(Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969); The Anderson Tapes (1971))
Gloria De Haven – Vivian
(Yes sir, That’s My Baby (1949); “Ryan’s Hope” (TV: 1983-1987))
Brent Spiner – Gil Godwyn
(“Star Trek: The Next Generation” (TV: 1987-1994))
Elaine Stritch – Mavis LaBreche
(“My Sister Eileen” (TV: 1960-1961); “Twos Company” (TV: 1975-1979))
Hal Linden – Mac Valor
(“Barney Miller” (TV: 1974-1982))
Donald O’Connor – Jonathan Devereaux
(Singin’ in the Rain (1952))
Edward Mulhare – Cullen Carswell
(“The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (TV: 1968-1970); “Knight Rider” (TV: 1982-1986))
Rue McClanahan – Mrs. Ellen Carruthers
(“The Golden Girls” (TV: 1985-1992))
[Out to Sea reviewed from Reviewer's private DVD collection.]