Saturday, December 6, 2014

St. Vincent

St. Vincent is a perfectly fine (if all-too-familiar) by-the-numbers dramedy about a grumpy old man's relationship with a nice kid who, to absolutely no one's surprise, will show his new friend isn't as bad as everyone believes him to be. Comparable to last year's Bad Words, it lacks the dark wit of Bad Santa or the soundtrack and amusing race sequences of Six Pack, and is far less moving than Up, but writer/director Theodore Melfi's film does allow space for Murray's talent to flourish and finds a way to use Melissa McCarthy in a way which reminds us she is capable of acting when not stuck in crappy films such as Tammy, Identity Thief, or The Heat.

The premise is relatively simple, Murray stars as a grumpy bastard with a pregnant hooker girlfriend (Naomi Watts) and general disdain for nearly every other living person. Desperately needing money, Vincent (Murray) agrees to babysit his new neighbor's (McCarthy) son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) after school. From there Vincent shares with the kid useful, but mostly inappropriate, knowledge that eventually raises the ire of Oliver's mother and threatens her custody case with her ex-husband.

St. Vincent offers no surprises as it follows a well-established structure and resolution that will eventually devolve into overly-sentimental territory. Murray's talent raises the bar of the questionable source material and Lieberher shows he can be more than just the cute kid confused and amazed by Vincent's life. Watts, who has never been one of my favorite actresses, gets stuck with the Vincent-lite character of a bitchy prostitute who (surprise, surprise) also turns out to have a heart by the end of the story.

Going over well-traversed material, St. Vincent doesn't offer much to delineate itself from the pack of similar movies. It's well-acted and put together, and entertaining for the light-hearted fare it offers, but given how slavishly it follows basic formula (even having the adults race to a kid's school presentation in the final act) there's only so much it can accomplish.

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