One of the best films ever made from a Neil Simon play, an engaging homage to the tradition of vaudeville in which the two halves of a once-famous double act (they now hate each other) re-team for a TV special.
The film opens in the 1970s with Matthau as a semi-retired comic scraping by doing commercials that his agent/nephew Benjamin has secured for him. He's auditioning for a silly potato chip TV spot for advertising director Hesseman when he blows his lines and decides that this isn't show business
and he no longer wants to be a part of it. A nostalgic TV special is coming up, and Benjamin books Matthau on it, hoping that he will put aside his rancor toward his former partner, Burns, and unite this last time for the benefit of all those people who never saw them together in the flesh. Burns
and Matthau haven't spoken in decades, and the mere mention of Burns is enough to send Matthau's blood pressure soaring. But he buries his enmity and agrees to see his erstwhile friend. The two men meet and began rehearsing the sketch that made them household names way back when they were known as
the Sunshine Boys, but battles begin immediately as they argue over the first words of the sketch.
THE SUNSHINE BOYS is a solid movie with stellar performances from all--seldom have Simon's lines been delivered with as much bite and wit as they are here. This was Burns' first film in 35 years and he was perfect, earning a Best Supporting Actor Oscar at the age of 79. Matthau earned a nomination
for Best Actor (he lost to Jack Nicholson for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, which collected most of the statuettes in 1975), and nominations also went to the screenplay and the art direction. Simon's inspiration for the story came from real-life vaudevillians Smith and Dale. In their very
advanced years, the comics teamed to do their "Dr. Kronkheit" sketch on the Ed Sullivan show, reviving a classic piece of comedy for a whole new generation of viewers.
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