Sequels are rarely half as good as the original film. Matthau and Lennon would prove this at the tale end of their film partnership with THE ODD COUPLE PART II. But it has happened. ANOTHER THIN MAN is as good a film as THE THIN MAN. Vincent Minelli's follow up to FATHER OF THE BRIDE may lack the satire of weddings the original had, but FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND is well made and entertaining in it's own right. And then there is this film. Of the first movie, GRUMPY OLD MEN, I have made a comment elsewhere. GRUMPIER OLD MEN is a neat follow-up, as we find how Max Goldman (Matthau) finds his new mate, Maria Ragetti (Sophia Loren). It also settles the future of Max's son Mayor Jacob Goldman (Kevin Pollak) and John Gustafson's (Lemmon's) daughter Melanie (Darryl Hannah), and gives a bitter-sweet farewell to John's father (Burgess Meredith).
I think the reason the sequel works is that there is a sense of time and continuity here that is not usually found. In GRUMPY OLD MEN, the reactions of Lemmon and Matthau to the death of their close friend Chuck (Ossie Davis), who had only recently been their rival for Ariel (Ann-Margaret) showed them to be human beings - not just two good comic actors trading insults for yucks. Here, it is watching the final scenes of Grandpa Gustafson (ironically Burgess Meredith's final role - and a fittingly good one for that fine actor). In the first film Meredith was always acting like a wild authority figure: over ninety years old, but threatening to tan the hides of the middle aged Matthau and Lennon like they were still kids when he stops them fighting. Here we see him in several guises. He is a loving grandpa - he is seen telling Allie (Katie Sagona) the story of Goldilock and the Three Bears (with his own modern interpolations), and then singing "Dream a Little Dream of Me" to put her to sleep. He is vulgar, but in a loving, sensible way. When Allie swallows a quarter, he suggests that it is normal - all kids swallow or try to swallow coins - and one only should worry if the kid excretes two dimes and nickel. He loves sexual encounters (in the first film he suggests that if Lemmon and Matthau can't get Arial he can!). Here he meets somebody to romance (Anne Gilbert), and they have a nice time together. But it is a brief one. Having reached 95, God finally comes for Grandpa, and his death manages to bring the other characters from cross purpose quarrels to sanity. It also brings the sweet image of Gilbert depositing a rose over the spot that Grandpa's ashes are scattered.
The continuity theme is also in the portion about "Catfish Hunter" the local lake legendary catfish. Grandpa tells John, at one point, that the catfish was old when he was a boy (which begs the question, why did they name the catfish after a major Yankee baseball player of the 1970 teams? - long after Grandpa's youth). The locals all hope to catch the fish and mount it on their walls. We see it at one point jumping late at night, alone, into the air and back into the late in the glorious moonlight - the monarch of the lake. But at the end, when the catfish is caught by Matthau and Lemmon together, Lemmon (probably influenced by Ann-Margaret, who did the same thing in the first film) gets Matthau to agree to return the catfish to the lake, where it can join Grandpa's ashes. So the legend is returned to it's base.
Even in the final moments of the film, with another marriage and a joke reminiscent of the first film's conclusion, suggests continuity. So there is a type of structural vigor in the two films, that strengthens their stories and increases the viewers pleasure watching them. Yes indeed, this is one sequel that works very well.