Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard, Jaeden Lieberher, Kimberly Quinn, Lenny Venito, Nate Corddry, Dario Barosso, Donna Mitchell, Ann Dowd, Scott Adsit, Reg E. Cathey, Deirdre O'Connell
Written by: Theodore Melfi
Directed by: Theodore Melfi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material including sexual content, alcohol and tobacco use, and for language
Running Time: 102
Date: 10/17/2014

St. Vincent (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Saint Job

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bill Murray, the star of the new film St. Vincent, was once under consideration to play the lead in Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa. This would have required him to play a drunken curmudgeon who is somewhat reformed by a nerdy, kindly child.

Now, in St. Vincent, he at last has that role. He plays Vietnam War veteran Vincent whose expenses include booze, the company of a pregnant, Russian prostitute, Daka (Naomi Watts), and fancy cat food for his squash-faced feline.

He lives in Brooklyn off of a reverse mortgage, which has just run out. At the same time, newly divorced nurse Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), and her sweet, but scrawny son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door.

With Maggie busy at work and Oliver picked on by bullies, Vin agrees to look after the kid for an hourly wage.

The movie adds, but forgets about, Terrence Howard as a debt collector on Vin's trail.

The usual stuff follows, with Vin taking Oliver to the racetrack and to a bar, and teaching him how to fight the school bully. Oliver, on the other hand, teaches Vin that caring about someone isn't so bad. Several montages help spell things out.

This formula has become a staple lately, and honestly, if Murray weren't in the role, it wouldn't be worth much.

Murray is put to perfect use here; his jerky behavior is not based on anger, but rather on a kind of freedom, which is hugely appealing.

Newcomer Lieberher makes a good, unflappable partner, a good foil, for the master comedian.

At the helm is Theodore Melfi, whose first big movie this is. Into the formula idea, he introduces the welcome theme of Sainthood. Oliver's Catholic school teacher (Chris O'Dowd, very funny) asks his students to find a modern-day one. Very few would argue that Murray's Vincent doesn't qualify.

A decade ago, instead of taking Bad Santa, Murray made Lost in Translation and earned one of history's few Oscar nominations for a comic actor. Now, because the Oscar voters like accents and diseases (Vincent has a Brooklyn accent and recovers from a stroke), he's getting buzz about a possible second nomination.

Thankfully, Vin, or Murray -- or both -- does not seem to care about such things. As the movie ends, he takes to his lawn chair, caterwauling a Bob Dylan tune and spraying everything in sight, even his own slippers, with his garden hose. For a Saint, this, not any award, could be the secret to true happiness.

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