We live in a divided country, but I feel comfortable saying I think we all can agree Bill Murray is a national treasure. His awesomeness was cemented around 1985 and he’s spent the past 30 years just taking victory laps.
Unfortunately for movie lovers, he’s spent the past decade primarily doing cameos and supporting turns while continually delighting strangers in real life by doing things like photobombing engagement pictures and taking tickets at a minor league baseball game.
Finally with “St. Vincent” we are getting some full, unadulterated Bill Murray in a fun little movie that tugs at your heartstrings without triggering your gag reflex.
Murray plays Vincent, an abrasive scumbag who haunts the bars, racetracks, and strip clubs around his native Brooklyn.
His only regular, somewhat-positive human interaction is with Daka (Naomi Watts in her most hilarious role to date), a gruff, eastern European prostitute who sports an increasingly noticeable baby bump.
Things change, as they often do, when a young boy named Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and his recently divorced mother Maggie (the great Melissa McCarthy in an understated role) move in next door to Vincent.
Through happenstance and plot contrivances, Vincent becomes Oliver’s after-school babysitter and the two loners become friends as Vincent schools Oliver in the ways of the world.
It is easy to dismiss this movie as formulaic and sentimental, as I will admit it did remind me in a lot of ways of a much, much more profane version of “Up.” But more than anything, “St. Vincent” is a showcase for Bill Murray to do all the Bill Murray things we enjoy watching him do. If loving that is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
We all know Murray is funny, and he is extremely funny in this movie, but he’s also a great collaborator. He’s got great chemistry with everyone in this movie as Lieberher, Watts, and McCarthy never get swallowed up when they are acting across from Murray. He plays off of them instead of blowing right through them as other larger-than-life performers are wont to do.
And as he has proven in the back half of his career, Murray also has the dramatic chops to make the film’s emotional beats all ring true.
“St. Vincent” is the feature-length debut of writer/director Theodore Melfi, who does a nice job here and who smartly realizes once you’ve landed Bill Murray in your movie, you just stand back and let him do his thing.
He lets the credits roll over what is essentially a protracted scene of Murray playing with a garden hose, during which nobody in the theater moved. Do you know why? Because Bill Murray playing with a garden hose is 85% more entertaining than anything else you will see at the movies this year.
In the end, how you feel about “St. Vincent” comes down to how you feel about Murray, which is kind of like saying how you feel about life comes down to how you feel about oxygen and warm showers.
Now if we can just convince Murray to spend more time in front of the camera and less time crashing kickball games, we will be in good shape; but then again, maybe that’s all part of what makes him so awesome to begin with.
“St. Vincent” is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language.