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Featured DVD Review: The April Fools and The War Between Men and Women

January 26th, 2014

The April Fools - Buy from Amazon
The War Between Men and Women - Buy from Amazon

Jack Lemmon starred in some of the greatest movies ever made. That is not a hyperbole. Some Like it Hot is arguably the greatest comedy every made. The Odd Couple, The Apartment, Grumpy Old Men, Glengarry Glen Ross, etc. The list of great movies he was in goes on and on and on. This week, two of his lesser known movies come out on DVD for the first time. To give you some perspective, neither The April Fools nor The War Between Men and Women have any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. They have clearly faded from public memory. Do they deserve to be rediscovered? Or is there a reason they didn't get a DVD release till now?

The April Fools

The film begins with Howard Brubaker arriving at an expensive apartment building. His friend, Potter Shrader, is already there and gives him some advice. Howard is there to see his boss, Ted Gunther for a promotion, but Potter seems to be more nervous than Howard is. Ted is even less concerned about the promotion, as there's a swinging art party going on. Howard doesn't fit in, at all.

We spend the next several minutes watching Howard move from one social blunder to the next. Howard calls home, but first his son, Stan, hangs up on him. Then his wife, Phyllis seems disinterested in his good news. Howard returns to the party and continues his awkwardness; however, someone has been watching him, Catherine. Coincidentally, Howard comes up to her and says, "Brubaker's the name. Buy you a drink?" mimicking the pick-up line his boss has used a few times. Howard is surprised when it works. While Catherine gets her stuff to leave, Ted comes by to introduce Howard to their new secretary, a woman wearing a macramé minidress, Howard is too distracted to notice. When he tells Ted what happened, Ted insists he takes this woman to the club.

Howard and Catherine leave the party and it is clear that the pair have good chemistry together. There's just two small problems. Firstly, Howard is married. Secondly, so is Catherine. In fact, Catherine is married to Ted. Although, we find out about that long before Howard does.

I could go on about the plot, but let's face it, it's a romantic comedy and once you know the basic set up (two people in unloving marriages meet and begin to fall in love) you can probably guess how it will end. Romantic comedies are appealing because they are original, they are appealing because of the chemistry of the two leads. Is that the case here? Yes. I think Jack Lemmon and Catherine Deneuve do have good chemistry together and they both put in good performances. There are also a lot of great performances in the supporting cast. Some of the situations are a little on the cheesy side, to understate the situation. The movie does take on a more serious tone in the end that I'm not sure was entirely warranted, but overall it is a light and enjoyable flick.

The War Between Men and Women

In this movie, Jack Lemmon plays Peter Edward Wilson, whom we meet, well, whom we hear talking to his doctor about his recent eye surgery. Peter is an artist, so we see his thoughts in cartoon form, which lead into the opening credits.

We then flash back to before the story starts with Peter talking directly to the audience explaining how much he loved his life as a bachelor. Today he has to go to his eye doctor, and he's planned ahead. He's memorized the eye chart. Unfortunately for him, he has a smart eye doctor, who changed charts. Peter damaged one of his eyes as s child and is almost entirely blind in that eye. However, now his good eye is rapidly failing as well. He will likely need an operation, as without it, he will go blind.

With his eyes dilated, Peter has to wait in the lobby. However, while traveling to the couch, he trips over a woman's legs and accidentally grabs her boob on the way down. As far as the meet-cute goes, this film is rather unique. The woman in question is Theresa Alice Kozlenko , who is also waiting on the couch with dilated pupils. The pair don't get off on the right foot, Peter has a prickly personality, but then Peter tells a a joke and Theresa absolutely loves it. However, this just further annoys Peter. He hates women who laugh too much. I told you he has a prickly personality. After Peter leaves, Theresa asks the eye doctor who he was and the doctor tells her, and that he is likely going blind.

The next item on Peter's schedule is a literary lunch. His agent insists he comes to these to help sell books, but he instead insults the people there, sometimes to their faces. While at the luncheon, he hears Theresa's laugh, but doesn't know where she is, because he's never seen her face. He can't see anything after someone accidentally knocks his glasses in a pitcher of some alcoholic beverage. Since he can't see without his glasses, he can't grab his glasses, so he decides to drink the pitcher to get them out. It is slightly after this plan is complete that Theresa comes by to talk to him. She works for Doubleday and would like to talk to him about the book, to see if they will buy it. Peter is still unable to see her (he broke the lens for his good eye) and he insults her yet again. After that, he heads home.

Peter still can't see, plus he's a little drunk, so getting home might prove fatal. Fortunately, Theresa followed him and helps him out at the intersection. Being the stubborn person he is, he still refuses help, that is until he walks into a post and gives himself a bloody nose. She offers to take him to her place to patch him up and at this point, there's little he can do to stop her. Upon arriving at her place, he sees she has the trifecta of things he hates. She's a woman, and he hates women, but she also as three kids and a dog, and he hates kids and dogs almost as much as he hates women. His short encounter there is a nightmare, and despite not being able to see, he flees out of their apartment.

Despite the acrimony of their meetings so far, Theresa sends Peter a flower and Peter returns the favor, and soon the pair are on a date. At first it looks like Theresa will be just one more in a series of one-night stands for Peter, but then something happens. He falls in love. Will falling in love make Peter rethink his positions on women, children and dogs?

Spoiler alert... no. Had that happened, the film would have been a lot better. As much as I like Jack Lemmon, Peter is an insufferable ass and nothing the actor can do can change that. I kept waiting for him to have his redeeming moment that would make the previous misogyny / misanthropic more tolerable. If they were part of a bigger character arc, then we could see them in a new light. There were a couple of times where I thought that would happen, but nope, never did. Barbara Harris was a lot more sympathetic and compelling, but you have to wonder why she stuck with Peter as long as she did. I didn't get to that part of the plot, but Jason Robards shows up as Theresa's ex-husband and I've always liked him, so that was fun to see.

The Extras

There are no extras on either DVD.

The Verdict

Neither The April Fools nor The War Between Men and Women are substantive films. At best, they are lighthearted, and lightweight, romantic comedies. The characters are more sympathetic in The April Fools and that's the film I would recommend checking out. However, neither of the two DVDs have any extras, while the picture quality betrays their age. I would stick with a rental.

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Filed under: Video Review, Catherine Deneuve, Barbara Harris, Sally Kellerman, Peter Lawford, Jack Lemmon, Jason Robards, Jr., Jack Weston