‘St. Vincent’ Review: Old People and Kids are Funny Together, Theoretically

By  · Published on October 10th, 2014

The Weinstein Company

Hey, is there actually any inherent humor to old person / little kid duos? A lot of movies take for granted that they are, but I’m not so sure that’s the case. The latest film to push this old sale is St. Vincent, and the only thing it does to distinguish itself from any other is that Bill Murray is the elder.

Murray plays the title character, Vincent. The “saint” part is ironic, since he’s a boozing, gambling, whoring old fart who likes no one and is liked by no one. Or is the “saint” part ironic? Perchance, could there be a heart of gold beating within that saggy bosom? Young Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) is poised to find out after Vincent becomes his “babysitter.” Oliver and his newly-divorced mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) have just moved next door to Vincent, and Maggie’s job as a nurse keeps her busy at late hours. So the cash-strapped Vincent agrees to watch over Oliver, and of course both theoretically hilarious shenanigans and even more theoretically heartwarming life lessons ensue.

Growling a thick Brooklyn accent that comes and goes at will, Murray is doing some kind of hybrid of his pre and post-Rushmore styles. He burps and drops wacky lines of pith, but also gets to exercise the subtle sorrow creases beneath his eyes. It’s reasonably entertaining if tiredly conventional. Which describes the whole movie, really. The script is cliched to a stunning degree of shamelessness. When a Catholic school teacher starts lecturing on the definition of saints and how they can be found in unexpected places, you’d know whom Oliver will single out as a saint even if the film didn’t put it in the title.

Murray is nice, but doesn’t have that much chemistry with Lieberher. They both seem to be acting at one another more often than they are in concert. McCarthy is okay, getting to break the raunchy type that film roles have stuck her in since Bridesmaids. Naomi Watts is also present as an Eastern European prostitute, and is out-acted by her prop pregnancy tummy (which looks astoundingly fake). Chris O’Dowd is a teacher, and does what he does, which is be Irish at the screen. Terence Howard is a gangster and it’s pretty sad to watch. Scott Adsit shows up and doesn’t say anything. A waste of a whole cast, really.

St. Vincent will surely be a Redbox hit for a few months, after which it is quite possible that it will disappear through humanity forgetting about it and ceasing to believe it exists, like Queen Mab at the end of Merlin. I can’t even imagine Bill Murray diehards being too enthused for it. Only brief moments, like him languidly singing along to Bob Dylan, feel anything like the schtick we know and love. The rest is a pop-twee meh.

The Upside: Fitfully funny, broken clocks and all that

The Downside: A Mad Libs book of cliches and sentimentality; good actors misused terribly.

On the Side: Theodore Melfi’s only previous feature as a director was Winding Roads, which starred Kimberly Quinn, who has a bit part in this one.

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