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Reviewed August 27th, 2002 by David Nusair


The Fortune Cookie is the first film to feature Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau together, and though itís not quite as good as some of their later films, itís still a very entertaining and occasionally funny comedy.

Lemmon stars as a cameraman who, while covering a football game, winds up getting tackled by an overzealous player. Heís rushed to the hospital where his family is waiting, including his sleazy brother-in-law lawyer (Matthau). Matthau immediately hatches a scheme to sue various organizations for a million dollars relating to Lemmonís injuries. One problem: Lemmon wasnít hurt that badly, and initially doesnít want anything to do with Matthauís plan. But Matthau convinces him that his ex-wife, who he still has feelings for, will feel sorry for him and rush to his side. So, the two work out a strategy to ensure that the private investigators hired to prove Lemmon is faking it never discover the truth.

The Fortune Cookieís been directed by Billy Wilder, a master at this sort of thing. But unlike something along the lines of The Apartment, The Fortune Cookie feels a little too rambling and unfocused to ever become a classic. Still, the movie is certainly worth checking out primarily due to the two lead performances. Even though this was their first movie together, the molds that Lemmon and Matthau would be forever be known for are here. Matthauís playing a freewheeling shyster while Lemmon takes the role of the more conservative, close-to-the-vest type.

Itís their performances that make The Fortune Cookie worth checking out, because the story itself isnít terribly interesting. While Wilderís ease in directing his actors and telling a light story is always evident, the material is perhaps a little too fluffy to sustain such a long running time (around 128 minutes). Had the film been chopped down to about 90 minutes (which should be the required length for comedies, but thatís a whole different argument), thereís no doubt it wouldíve been a lot more effective.

Still, you just canít go wrong with Lemmon and Matthau, so on that basis, The Fortune Cookie is certainly worth a look.

Audio: The Fortune Cookie is presented with a DD 2.0 soundtrack, and not surprisingly, thereís not much here. Dialogue is the name of the game, and though it does occasionally sound a little muffled, itís otherwise fine.

Video: This anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1 transfer is pretty darn impressive. Though there are some instances of film-related artifacts, the transfer is otherwise quite clear and crisp.

Extras: A trailer.

Conclusion: The Fortune Cookie is a must for fans of Matthau and Lemmon.


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