The 1997 romantic comedy Out to Sea is distributed by 20th Century Fox. Some of its stars include Jack Lemmon as Herb Sullivan, Walter Matthau as Charlie Gordon, Dyan Cannon as Liz LaBreche, Gloria DeHaven as Vivian, Brent Spiner as Gil Godwin, and Elaine Stritch as Mavis LaBreche. The producers are David T. Friendly (My Girl 2) and John Davis (Doctor Doolittle). It is directed by Martha Coolidge (TV’s Psych).
The storyline follows gambler Charlie Gordon and his lonely widower brother-in-law Herb Sullivan. Charlie coaxes Herb into going on a free luxury cruise to the Yucatan in order to meet women with sizeable bank accounts. But what he doesn’t tell his friend is the catch: they are to be dance hosts on the cruise. On the plane, the two steal first-class seats. Everything is swell until a couple of newlyweds and the bride’s attractive widow mother board the plane just before takeoff and take their first-class seats. Charlie tries to claim that Herb was a doctor and he thought it best not to be exposed to the stresses of coach. Later on after the ship raises anchor, the lonely widower encounters the woman again while dancing and discovers her name is Vivian. At this same time Charlie, who can’t dance, fakes going to the bathroom to go to the casino to meet a beautiful rich woman named Liz LaBreche whom he met earlier on the ship. After winning $18,000 from his main rival for her affection, Cullen Carswell, Charlie tears up his check. As he is leaving, the attractive woman asks him why he did that and he says he wanted to impress her. He goes back to the ballroom with a cane, trying to fake an injury to his foot so he wouldn’t have to dance. The cruise director Gil Godwin, a control-freak and brown-noser, is skeptical of Charlie’s “injury”. The next day, after holding up Carswell with a fake call from Donald Trump, Charlie catches a bus with Liz to a small village on shore. But Godwin also goes ashore and spots him without his cane. Charlie locates Godwin and heads to the restroom to figure his next move. He spots a guy with a mask and asks to borrow it. He passes right by Godwin as he is in the mask. The cruise director was trying to bust Charlie in the restroom. The fake dance host then realizes what the guy in the mask is going to do and gives it to someone else. But Godwin doesn’t know and catches who he thinks is Charlie in the mask. Instead of busting the mischievous dance host, Godwin ends up riding a bull while wearing a burning mask. Some time later back on the ship, the cruise director catches the uninjured Charlie and demands that he dance every dance that night. Herb teaches him, but he still can’t do it. After the first couple of dances, the sneaky Charlie sneaks out of the ballroom after Godwin leaves and heads back down to the casino to meet Liz. After he catches Carswell cheating, his rival is kicked out of the casino. Liz and Charlie have an intimate night together. Meanwhile, Herb and Vivian share a kiss and agree to meet at a cafe on shore to watch the eclipse together the next day. But the widower runs into his late wife’s nurse and begins to think about how much he misses her. He misses the boat to meet Vivian. She decides to go home. Just before the eclipse, Charlie proposes to Liz and she accepts. As he and his fiance leave the ship, he runs into Gil Godwin who tells Liz and Mavis, Liz’s mother, that Charlie is just a dance host and not in mergers and acquisitions as he had told her. She breaks it off with him. Herb and Charlie agree to go after their women at any cost.
One of the most intriguing features of this film was its James Bond-like setup in the casino. As Charlie is first entering, the music is clearly something that would come out of a casino scene in a James Bond movie. Also the characters at the poker table are similar to what Bond may encounter in a similar situation. There is Charlie Gordon, who is an exceptional poker player as Bond is, acting as the Bond-like hero. Additionally, we have Liz LaBreche, who is the beautiful woman that the Bond-like hero Charlie is attracted to. Lastly, we have the villain who, in this case, is Cullen Carswell. He is also a great poker player who is out to prove Charlie is not who he seems.
In addition to the Bond-like setup, I also found the Gil Godwin character to be quite interesting. The overbearing cruise director rules the dance hosts with an iron fist because he is out to prove to the ship’s owner that he should be promoted to a vice-president of entertainment position. Godwin will step on anyone’s toes in order to get that job, which includes keeping his most rebellious dance hosts, mainly Herb and Charlie, in line at any cost. The cruise director tries to catch Herb “fraternizing”, which he forbids the dance hosts to do, with Vivian in private a couple of times throughout the film. He is interrupted each time before he can punish him. And then there’s Charlie, need I say more? He goes after him many times as he is viewed as the worst of the two. He succeeds a few times, but his glory is always short-lived because Charlie always comes up with a new scheme to annoy Godwin immediately after the previous one fails.
To wrap, Out to Sea generally follows the same type of storyline that two previous Lemmon and Matthau movies followed, the Grumpy Old Men movies. But if you liked the comedy duo in those films, you’ll love this one!