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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » House Calls
House Calls
Universal // PG // May 31, 2005
List Price: $12.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Weinberg | posted June 8, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

House Calls is a comedy film from 1978 that features Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, and zero laughs. Bizarre that a comedy with Walter Matthau in the lead could yield not one single chuckle, but such is the case here. And believe me when I say that I'd never criticize Walter Matthau for undue reasons. Few actors in the history of the world are more lovable than Walter Matthau was, so remember my respect for the man when I maintain that House Calls ranks among the weakest movies he ever made. (And this is a guy who starred in Earthquake and Roman Polanski's Pirates!)

Matthau plays the roguish and rascally doctor known as Charlie Nichols. Charlie's wife died a few months back, but he just can't wait to jump into the dating pool. (The question of why Charlie doesn't seem to miss his deceased wife never really comes up.) Dr. Charlie begins planning his future "house calls" when he meets a lovely and refined lady with a broken jaw. Ann Atkinson is a sassy British cheesecake-baker, and she and the horny doc flirt just a little and become semi-friends. Through a series of one-night stands, Charlie rediscovers the pleasures of intercourse ... but he also starts having feelings for Ann! Oh what's a guy to do...

Tucked firmly into the background of this relatively stagnant rom-com is a subplot involving a "hilariously" run-down hospital, a clueless chief-of-staff bastard, and an impending lawsuit that just might be averted if Dr. Charlie agrees to lay some pipe on a horny widow.

Aside from the effortless fun of watching Walter Matthau do his trademark thing (which, admittedly, can be a helluva good time in even the worst movies), House Calls is fairly pedestrian, consistently predictable, and delivered with all the pizazz of an old Quincy rerun. Art Carney bumbles through a role that could be endearing and funny, if his character weren't such a hateful bastard. The all-too-infrequent moments of comedic interplay between Matthau and Ms. Jackson are squandered in a narrative that has dangerously little to say about romance -- and the medical schtick is more than a little tiresome. (One early section of the movie, involving a public television panel discussion, comes admirably close to actual satire, but the movie pretty much heads straight downhill from there.)

Fans of the Matthau will (and should) want to give House Calls a spin, and they'll most likely enjoy it a bit more than I did, but nobody's going to argue that this one ranks among the guy's best work.

The DVD

Video: Though the widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic treatment is highly appreciated (particularly on a relatively forgotten granny-rom-com from 1978), the transfer quality is not exactly what one would call pristine. Still, the movie looks a whole lot better than it would on HBO or ABC, so you House Calls fans better get out there and snag a copy!

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 in your choice of English, Francois, or Espanol. Optional subtitles in the same languages.

Extras: The House Calls theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts

House Calls just didn't make me laugh. Not once. But you know what they say about humor being the pinnacle of all things subjective, so you might chuckle your damn head off during House Calls.

And the romance angle just doesn't work at all, partially because I just don't swallow any of the alleged romantic chemistry between Matthau and Jackson, but mainly because they're simply not given anything interesting to say.

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