Movie review: St. Vincent

st.-vincent-movie-poster-9November 9, 2014When you think of Bill Murray, what movies come to mind?

For some, it might be his screw ball comedies, mimicking his “Saturday Night Live” days, like “Caddy Shack”, “Stripes”, and “Ghostbusters”.

For others, it might be the film collection he’s done with Wes Anderson, including “Rushmore”, “The Royal Tennenbaums”, and “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.

And others might sway to his dramatic performances in “Broken Flowers”, “Lost in Translation”, and “Hyde Park on Hudson”, the latter which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.

I’m partial to “What About Bob?” and “Ground Hog Day”, but enjoy most of his movies. If you look through Murray’s full list, there’s no doubt he chose wisely and widely, running the gamut from crazy comedy to the highly dramatic. Murray’s delivered both styles and everything in between with his same deadpan style, just as Leslie Nielson did with his dramatic roles in the 1950s and his crazy comedies like “Airplane” and “The Naked Gun” series in the 1980s. It worked like a charm for both actors.

In his latest film “St. Vincent”, Murray chooses wisely again, playing a Vietnam vet, boozing, gambling, scamming, self-centered resident of Brooklyn who becomes the unlikely babysitter of the 10-year-old next door. Vincent is hard to like at first, but after his young charge, Oliver peels back his layers, he reveals the Vincent that the rest of the world doesn’t get to see. Sounds a little predictable that the old man and the young boy bond, but it’s written in a charming way that keeps the audience interested.

Melissa McCarthy also stars as Oliver’s mother, and takes a break from the bawdy, crude characters that have made her famous. McCarthy tones it down in this role, proving she can also place drama in her repertoire. Murray shines as well, but it’s newcomer Jaeden Lieberher as Oliver who steals each scene he is in, and holds his own against the mighty and seasoned Murray and McCarthy.

Chris O’Dowd also turns in a solid performance at a Catholic priest, and teacher to Oliver. He makes this 16-year Catholic school veteran wish she had a teacher like him in elementary school. The assignment he gives to his class, to find a common person and make a case for their sainthood is interesting and just the kind of assignment I would have loved to tackle. I’m not spoiling anything by stating who Oliver chooses to canonize. The title alone gives that away.

I’d bet that most people would find “St. Vincent” entertaining, although the PG-13 rating may be enough for some parents to keep their kids away. There is plenty for the young to learn in this movie, too, even though it tackles some of the seedier topics. With shades of “About a Boy” (2002) and “My Body Guard (1980), writer/director Theodore Melfi’s story is surprising for a predictable movie, complete with interesting twists that you might not see coming. I highly recommend it.

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