The Sunshine Boys


The Sunshine Boys (1975)



Critic Consensus: Thanks to the sparkling chemistry between its stars and Herbert Ross' gentle direction, this sweetly ambling comedy ranks among Neil Simon's finest screen adaptations.


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Movie Info

In this 1975 adaptation of Neil Simon's stage play, director Herbert Ross presents the story of two old-time Vaudvillians played by Walter Matthau and George Burns in his first starring role since 1939's Honolulu. After decades apart, the cantankerous duo is persuaded to reunite for a television special despite the fact that they hate each other. Richard Benjamin co-stars as Matthau's nephew, who has the responsibility of making sure the comedians go through with the show and don't kill each other in the process. Nominated for four Academy Awards, Burns took home the statue for Best Supporting Actor.

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Walter Matthau
as Willy Clark
George Burns
as Al Lewis
Carol DeLuise
as Mrs. Doris Green, Al's Daughter
Lee Meredith
as Nurse in Sketch
Jennifer Lee
as Ben's Wife Helen
Howard Hesseman
as Commercial Director
James Cranna
as TV Director
Ron Rifkin
as TV Floor Manager
Fritz Feld
as Man at Audition
Jack Bernardi
as Man at Audition
Garn Stephens
as Stage Manager
Santos Morales
as Desk Clerk
Sid Gould
as Patient
Tom Spratley
as Card Player
Rashel Novikoff
as Woman in Hotel
Archie Hahn III
as Assistant at Audition
Sammy Smith
as Man on Street
Dan Resin
as Mr. Ferranti
Steve Allen
as Himself
Walter Stocker
as TV Executive
Duchess Dale
as Ben's Secretary
Bill Reddick
as Delivery Boy
Eddie Villery
as Delivery Boy
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Critic Reviews for The Sunshine Boys

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (3)

The Sunshine Boys is an extremely sensitive and lovable film version of Neil Simon's play, with Walter Matthau and George Burns outstanding in their starring roles as a pair of long-hostile vaudeville partners.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Mr. Matthau is so good playing old men, we may never know when he finally becomes one.

May 9, 2005 | Rating: 4/5

Neil Simon's most irritating play is no less agonizing on the screen under Herbert Ross's sycophantic direction.

Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

...suffers from a terminally arms-length atmosphere that's compounded by filmmaker Herbert Ross' stagy approach to the material...

Oct 22, 2018 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Aging comics sparkle, swear, and spar in Neil Simon farce.

Jul 15, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Great chemistry between the two great comic leads and some pretty decent one-liners but this doesn't manage to hold together as a feature-length concept.

Oct 22, 2013 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Sunshine Boys


Two octogenarian former comedians reunite for one last show after a contentious separation. Neil Simon, famed for his dialogue and witticisms, may have written some funny scenes and plays, but as a whole, this isn't one of them. Yes, the monologue of Walter Matthau's character listing funny words is classic, but most of the film is filled with tired jokes that Matthau and George Burns, kyphotic to a fault, stumble through. The plot is basically predictable, and the filmmaking is not dynamic. Overall, some of the film is funny, but it doesn't hold together beyond being a collection of sketches.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Matthau and Burns give a decent amount of life to Neil Simon's play. I find it weird how it seems like Matthau has always perpetually played old men even in his youth. Burns got a lot of mediocre gigs in forgettable movies after this.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer


Matthau e Burns, juntos com o maravilhoso roteiro de Neil Simon, fazem com que seja uma viagem de gargalhadas e ótima diversão. Distaque para a atuação de Burns, que ganhou o Oscar por este papel.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer

If you've ever had a strong desire to hang out with hard-of-hearing, incontinent and embittered elderly at a nursing home for two hours, then I strongly suggest you watch this movie first, as it will undoubtably cure you of this. Walter Matthau yells, hollers and bellows his dialogue in a manner that must've left him exhausted after each day of filming, or at least with a bad case of laryngitis. He plays a character so grating, it borders on torture to watch. In fact, this might be a good film subject Al-qaeda suspects to (with the volume turned up, for full bellowing effect). While I don't have any actual quotes from the movie, I think I can give a basic idea of the humor found in it: Old Man: "Where's the bathroom?" woman: "Sir, this is a pay phone" Old Man: "What?" woman: "I said, 'Sir, this is a pay phone" Old Man: "So? Why are you telling me this for?" woman: "You asked where the bathroom is" Old Man: "You think I don't know this? What is this?" woman: "Would you please leave?" Old Man: "Huh?? What?? Bathroom??? Phone Booth???" (10 minutes later) Old man: "So what, you gonna let me use the bathroom now?" ...annd scene. Walter Matthau plays an old vaudeville entertainer who's fallen on hard times, and as the movie opens, he's going out on commercial auditions. But, rather than go to the building where auditions are being held, he goes to an auto garage and insists on doing the audition for the mechanic, who is about as amused by this as I was. If Walter Matthau is playing an older character (than he was at the time), then George Burns is somehow playing a YOUNGER character (than he was at the time), and yet, he still seems more together than what Matthau is supposed to be. You see, the two of them were the great vaudeville comedy team "Lewis and Clark", and they've been at each other's throats for years since their retirement. When Clark's nephew (Richard Benjamin) gets them booked on a tv retrospective, they have to somehow learn to work together again. But after being subjected to Matthau's "louder equals funnier" performance for the entire first half of the movie, I had no interest in how the rest of the plot would play out. Neil Simon's screenplay is awkward, obvious, elementary and plodding. This movie actually plays better as a drama than a comedy. I don't find it cute when old people act like infants and I don't enjoy listening to people yelling at one another. My question is, are there people who do enjoy this?

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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