Bill Murray is a force of nature these days. He probably always has been but with the instant-cyber-everything of the Internet, his everyday jovial awesomeness is being shared and celebrated en masse: Bill Murray gives speeches at random dudes' bachelor parties, he recites lines from Caddyshack on the golf course, he bartends at surprise parties and karaokes with strangers. Bill Murray is of the people, for the people.
Which wouldn't matter that much if he wasn't still making excellent films and didn't have a back catalogue as good as almost anyone in the business, but Bill always rules it and he's back on screens this week in St. Vincent, opening Thursday at the Whistler Village 8.
Murray stars as Vincent, a destitute and grouchy retiree who ends up babysitting the 12-year-old son of his new neighbour (Melissa McCarthy from The Heat). Except to Vincent, babysitting includes drinking, smoking, learning to break noses and visiting the occasional strip bar to check out Naomi Watts as a pregnant stripper/hooker dressed in a heavy Russian accent and very little else.
Rookie director Theodore Melfi occasionally lays it on pretty thick as he weaves in themes of family and acceptance and how everyone has this great intrinsic worth. It's one of those childhood innocence-meets-jaded-adulthood flicks where you know everyone is gonna learn something new by the end. The formulaic-ness is not important however, because Bill Murray is so goddamned good and the kid he is paired with (Jaeden Leiberher) holds his own as a foil. St. Vincent is one of those flicks you can watch with your parents and everyone gets a laugh.
Murray's back catalogue is filled with bangers (Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, Kingpin and all those Wes Anderson gems) but the Download of the Week features Bill in a less comedic role playing an aging American film star co-navigating loneliness in Japan in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. There's a karaoke scene in there where Bill delivers a tender version of Roxy Music's "More Than This" that is a bit reminiscent of a clip from St. Vincent where he sings along to Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" while watering a dead plant. If genius is elevating the mundane into something beautiful then Murray is as good as it gets.
The other film opening this week is the opposite of genius. Dumb and Dumber To sees Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels back in the shag saddle as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, perhaps the most celebrated cinematic idiots of the last two decades. The good news is this one is directed by The Farrelly Brothers, who elevated dumb, gross-out humour to new heights with the first Dumb and Dumber and subsequent mega hit There's Something About Mary. Semen-in-the-hair jokes are still spiraling off that one.
The less-good news is that movie comedy has evolved since the mid-1990s and the brothers haven't kept up. So while many of us will still enjoy catheter jokes, feline bumholes and dusty geriatric fistings, the magic spark that made Lloyd and Harry's first few adventurers together will most likely be missing. This one is rated PG and the studios didn't offer pre-screenings (that's never a good sign), but the return of Lloyd Christmas will hit with a certain demographic regardless.
Speaking of Christmas, it's always a good time to learn more about the Devil's music so the Netflix Nugget of the Week is Last Days Here, a bonkers documentary about Bobby Leibling, lead singer of failed '70s heavy metal band Pentagram. Filmed over the course of six years and chronicling 50+-year-old Leibling's attempted return to the stage despite a gnarly crack cocaine addiction, Last Days Here is both an affirming and depressing look at the consuming nature of creativity and the in-your-blood commitment of headbanger rock 'n' roll. Supporting characters add immensely to this flick and the twist ending is straight up crazy. Rock on.