Magazine article Variety

Murray's Patron Saint of Laffs

Magazine article Variety

Murray's Patron Saint of Laffs

Article excerpt

Murray's Patron Saint of Laffs

Of all the funny ideas in "St. Vincent," Hollywood would have to freeze over before the Catholic Church agreed to canonize the drinking, gambling, cussing old coot Bill Murray plays in Theodore Melfi's sweet-and-sour first feature. Even so, this refreshingly unorthodox tragicomedy mounts a pretty convincing case that sometimes role models arrive in disguise - as they do here for the pic's preteen hero. Murray makes a dream addition to the fast-growing irresponsible-adults subgenre, already plenty crowded with bad grandpas, teachers and Santas, though Melfi's instinct to find and accentuate the memorable character's redeeming qualities steers this Oct. 10 Weinstein Co. release from "Bad Babysitter" realm into more solidly commercial heart-tugging territory.

Who but Murray could have played Vincent, a drunken curmudgeon who manages to seem all the more lovable with each poor life decision he makes? Vincent lives alone, and tolerates the company of precious few, apart from pregnant Russian stripper Daka (Naomi Watts) and a mysterious older woman named Sandy (Donna Mitchell) whom he visits weekly at the retirement home.

He has no kids of his own and wants nothing to do with the little troublemakers, but finds he has no choice after a newly single mom (Melissa McCarthy) and her runty 12-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door.

Vincent splits his time between the bars, the horse track and the strip club where Daka works, running up tabs everywhere. When his harried new neighbor begs him to watch her son after school, he sees no reason why he shouldn't drag Oliver along on his normal routine, serving as sort of a shitfaced Mr. Miyagi to the kid, who's getting picked on by the little hellions at his new Catholic school. Instead of showing Oliver "the crane," Vincent teaches him how to break a bully's nose.

Murray is a brilliant physical comedian, as demonstrated in a bit that begins with Vincent drunkenly backing over his own white-picket fence and builds to a pratfall in his kitchen, resulting in a forehead bandage that completes the character, the way Jack Nicholson's nose plaster did in "Chinatown. …

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