By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

St. Vincent is a movie which treads familiar territory, but it is one whose heart is undeniable.  The process of revealing that heart is often a hilarious one. Bill Murray stars in the title role of an old curmudgeon who eventually finds some new joy in his life when he gets hired by his new neighbor Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) to babysit her son Oliver (Jaeden Liberher) after school.  The well-written humor, along with the superb performances of the cast make this a movie not to miss, despite the fact that it rehashes material from other films such as Bad Santa, About a Boy, and As Good As It Gets.

Recently separated from her husband, Maggie and her son Oliver move into a duplex building, one that is shared with neighbor Vincent.  On their very first day at the new home, Maggie and Oliver get to witness how cantankerous and unpleasant Vincent can be.  When Oliver gets locked out of the home one day, Maggie, who is stuck at work, reluctantly allows Oliver to stay with Vincent. Because she must work long hours to support her and her son, Maggie hires Vincent on a regular basis.  Only in it for the money, Vincent often drags Oliver along with him for some of his regular day-to-day activities which include drinking heavily and gambling on horses.  Despite his bad vices, Vincent does have a heart, but Oliver will have to get to know him better before he can see it.

Theodore Melfi wrote and directed this wild and raucous comedy which had me and my fellow audience members laughing often.  Melfi succeeds in writing some genuinely funny comedy and utilizes this more than the shock gags on which other similar movies tend to rely.  Don’t get me wrong, St. Vincent does have its moments, but the sharply written dialogue and performance of Murray make this a very smart comedy.  Still, the story and plot cover material that is all too familiar and thus, follows a familiar direction.  That is not to say that the movie has some lovely surprises, but everything pretty much ends as expected.

Bill Murray combines his usual sardonic style with the much louder, abrasive and unfiltered traits of his character.  It is a character and performance which suits his age well, though Murray can probably still pull off slightly younger characters.  It really is great to see Melissa McCarthy play a more subdued and dramatic role in this movie.  Though her performance in Tammy was a step in the right direction, this role is the complete opposite of any of her recent parts.  In St. Vincent, she proves that she can handle roles that are much more serious and not so silly and physical.  Young actor Jaeden Liberher truly impressed me as Oliver.  He shows tremendous promise here and should have a bright future ahead.  I really enjoyed Naomi Watts who plays Daka, a Russian dancer/prostitute who has Vincent as a regular client.  She does an outstanding job delivering a Russian accent.

Although this film’s story and plot are not all that original, I must recommend catching it at some point because the humor and acting definitely make it worth watching.  Fans of Bill Murray won’t be surprised that he shines in this film, but fans and non-fans of Melissa McCarthy will both be wonderfully surprised that she can offer a much more serious performance.  This movie would make a great matinee at the cinema or a fine rental.  For this being his first feature film, Theodore Melfi deserves some applause for solid writing and direction.  Both he and young actor Lieberher show the potential for more impressive work in the future.

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