It was both shocking and sobering to see how old Bill Murray is in St. Vincent. My God, where have the years gone?

Bill was always my favorite of the SNL alumni. There isn't really a lot of competition, but he struck me with his charm and wit right from the start. Then his movie debut, Meatballs, sealed Bill Murray as an all-time favorite actor.

The years have come and gone, but when Murray smiles in St. Vincent, infrequent as it may be, you can still see the impish, childlike ghost of Tripper Harrison, from Meatballs.

Bill Murray has become a titan of comedy since Meatballs. In some ways he is without peer. Sure, he has done some turkeys, but look at some of the crap that other SNL refugees have been in.

Meatballs will always be special to me. I loved the movie when I first saw it, and that love has only grown as I have watched it countless times since then. Meatballs is a favorite movie of my daughters, and I was gratified that they enjoyed it as much--or even more--than I did.

Despite the mischievous hyjinx in Meatballs, I think it is actually a good movie to show kids. It entertainingly demonstrates the importance of individualism and perseverance. Not to mention how critical it is to have fun in all aspects of life.

Murray's second film was the Hunter S. Thompson vehicle, Where the Buffalo Roam. It's not a terribly good movie, but Murray's portrayal of Thompson was spot-on.

I am not the biggest Caddyshack fan. I like Murray much more as a kindly big brother or BBF type as he was in Meatballs and Stripes. I couldn't relate to his character in this one at all. Still, there are some side-splitting moments in Caddyshack.

Stripes came next, and it is another big favorite. The final third of Stripes suffers, but the basic training scenes are so wonderful that I don't mind a bit.

Of course there was Ghostbusters. I was never a big fan of this movie, but I sure have a lot of fond memories of it. It was a more innocent time, and I get so nostalgic when I spin my Ghostbusters 45 on the turntable. This movie struck a chord with the public and was a huge hit.

The success of Ghostbusters seemingly took a toll on Murray, and he devoted time to a dream project. Bill co-wrote and starred in an excellent adaptation of the Somerset Maugham novel, The Razor's Edge. Audiences stayed away in droves, as they say, but I always loved this movie. You should seek it out.

By this time Bill Murray had become an icon of comedy. Obviously audiences did not care to see him in dramatic roles. It was around this time that he started playing curmudgeonly characters.

Sadly, Scrooged could have been a classic, if the studio had the balls to shoot Michael Donahue's screenplay and not watered it down. In the end it became a bland nothing. Not acerbic enough to be an edgy cult classic, and just a little too weird to be a feel-good family film.

Murray has worked steady for his entire career. He does small roles in movies sometimes, and other occasions he is the star of the picture. Some I like a lot: Wild Things, Ed Wood, Mad Dog and Glory, The Monuments Men. Bill has appeared in jim Jarmusch movies, which shows his indie cred. But then he is a regular in Wes Anderson movies, and I sadly cannot stand that filmmaker's style.

I neglected to mention one picture, but it is arguably the best movie of Bill Murray's career. I am talking about Groundhog Day. This is an entertaining and funny movie, but it works on numerous levels. Groundhog Day has been embraced by Buddhists. In some ways it is a spiritual movie of the highest order. Groundhog Day shows how we must repeat our mistakes time and again, whether in this or other lives, until we learn the proper way to live.

Now we finally have Bill Murray in a new starring role that is almost worthy of his talents.

Bill Murray shines in St. Vincent. His performance is flawless and he put a lifetime of experience into it. His character is alternately hilarious, tragic, infuriating.

As for the movie itself, well, no one can accuse it of originality. It's your basic Little kid warms the heart of mean old bastard plot. It certainly isn't a bad movie, and I do recommend that you see it. Preferably in a theater.

The multiplexes are jam-packed with big, dumb, loud movies that assault the senses. Many look as though they were made on a computer. If you, like me, enjoy smaller, more intimate motion picture experiences, I urge you to see movies like St. Vincent.

And while you are there you will see a bravura performance by an icon who well may be the greatest comic actor alive today.

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry