Fifteen years after they stopped being roomies, Felix Unger again patrols for untidiness in the shared living quarters with Oscar Madison, but the only odd thing about the two now is Oscar’s voice. The raspy sound is a consequence of throat-cancer surgery on actor Jack Klugman, who gives a courageous performance. Longer, more serious plot for the onetime sitcom keeps the laughs to a minimum while pulling tears.
Scripter and director Robert Klane was given no easy task when the order was to revisit and give voice to “The Odd Couple” while mixing in the need to explain the handicap. And the solution provides a message that rings clear as a bell: Treat the handicap the same as everyone else.
Felix, played as kinetically as ever by the irrepressible Tony Randall, learns about his ol’ bud’s recent surgery and becomes the first to elicit a remark of any kind from his once-vociferous friend. At the same time, Felix’s reconciled wife (Barbara Barrie) wants him out of the house while their daughter preps for her wedding.
Yep, Felix goes to Oscar’s and his old digs, with sneeze and suitcase in tow. Oscar allows him to stay, even after Felix’s vacuuming and nit-picking persist. The love-hate relationship sparks again.
But there are no more carefree days; instead, Felix leads the charge to rehabilitate Oscar, who’s abandoned his Underwood typewriter for broadcasting just as his vocal chords are damaged. Have no fear, things work out pretty well.
Though the spirit of the old series certainly wasn’t betrayed, the script by Klane is careful and at times stiff; however, cameos by heavies like Penny Marshall, resurrecting the character of Myrna, come to the rescue just when the air seems depleted.
“The Odd Couple” is often mediocre as it wanders through a two-hour slot. But the visit is a walk down memory lane and Klugman’s performance should give others in his shoes inspiration and encouragement.