review for The Out-of-Towners on AllMovie

The Out-of-Towners (1969)
by Michael Hastings review

One of writer Neil Simon's more sustained comedic conceits, this nothing-goes-right comedy provided the template for countless imitators -- see also Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the National Lampoon's Vacation series, or the dismal 1999 Steve Martin remake of the same name -- without being very good itself. The Out-of-Towners' problem certainly isn't casting: Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis have the right air of Midwestern befuddlement, and their respective manic and depressive performance styles work well together. But Simon has loaded his script against them -- and indeed, against non-New Yorkers everywhere -- to the point where their rage against the city is far out of proportion to what they actually experience. The harried marrieds' failure to survive Gotham is presented as their failing: they're just simply not up to speed with the city, and Simon won't pause for a second to consider that the city might actually benefit from their Midwestern guile -- or lack thereof. For a caustic comedy like this to work, a writer can't take any prisoners; in The Out-of-Towners, Simon makes the mistake of taking only two.