Reviewed by Jay
The plot here has the potential to be revolting – sweet lonely kid next door befriends curmudgeon; the world becomes a slightly better place. Luckily, in the hands of Bill Murray, the script mostly escapes cliche and is often sublime. This is Bill Murray at his Bill Murrayest. Nominate him for an Oscar right now. He won’t win, but it’s honour, blah blah blah.
Murray has great chemistry with the kid. But then again, if you stayed through the credits, you know he’s got great chemistry with a house plant. His character’s a mess, often literally (“Where’s all my dirt?), often bleeding and badly bandaged. Naomi Watts was a bit of a head-scratcher, playing a pregnant Russian hooker (with a heart of silver? bronze? aluminum?) with an accent verging on cartoonish. Melissa McCarthy is great in her role of newly-single mother. She feels a bit wasted on the role, playing it very straight, although it does bring welcome relief from her recent flood of obnoxious characters. Chris O’Dowd, playing man of cloth\teacher, is criminally underused. The audience eats him up every time he’s on screen. The kid is a delight, and not too obviously acting, so I’d like to shake his hand for that.
Bill Murray makes this movie. Kudos to the director for knowing he’s got a star vehicle and for finding the exact right star – the only star – for the role. Bill Murray does eccentric grumpy old man quite well. It’s a hoot to watch, every time. But it’s the tiny moments of gruff tenderness that blow you away.