St. Vincent a Lifetime movie with big-name actors and absolutely nothing more

The movie is supposed to be about how wonderful Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray) is and how everyone loves him, and maybe that would work if he were Peter Venkman or Steve Zissou. Photos courtesy The Weinstein Company.

When Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy star in a movie, most people would think it would be both funny and strange. They’d be wrong.

St. Vincent follows title character Vincent MacKenna (Bill Murray), a stereotypical, cursing, drinking, gambling old Irishman. MacKenna has fallen on hard times and tries to take advantage of his new neighbor, Maggie Bronstein (Melissa McCarthy), when her movers knock into his tree. However, MacKenna and Bronstein’s son, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) start to develop a relationship when MacKenna is forced to keep track of Oliver after school because his mother cares more about work than her son.

Oliver is assigned to argue for a modern-day person to receive sainthood and oh, crap, that’s a spoiler isn’t it. Given that information, anyone with half a brain can figure out how the movie is obviously going to play out. Don’t look at me, the assignment is delivered like 10 minutes into the movie. Meaning for the remaining 92 minutes, everyone with half a brain knows what’s going to happen, if they didn’t already.

MacKenna’s pregnant prostitute friend, Daka (a completely unrecognizable Naomi Watts), is also involved.

This movie is being marketed on the strength of lead actors Murray and McCarthy, even though Lieberher gets much more screen time than McCarthy does. The thing about actors is they play different characters in every movie, and that’s their job, and that’s OK. But the thing about stars is they have something recognizable and bankable that they do in most of their movies that people pay to see. Think George Clooney’s smoldering good looks or the one-liners Will Smith’s handlers write into every script he signs on for.

Murray has earned a reputation for his delivery and ability to maintain a straight face through even the most bizarre situations. But nothing that made him who he is is on display in St. Vincent. They may as well have cast Morgan Freeman to play a mute character for all the popular appeal they’re negating.

McCarthy is similarly muted. She has her slapstick appeal but never puts it to use here. She spends most of the movie griping boringly at MacKenna or simply being absent. Fans of either actor will be hugely disappointed.

As will pretty much everyone else. The duo of miscast stars are the only advertising point because they’re the only real appeal. St. Vincent has the plot and temperament of a Lifetime movie, and it isn’t much better. The other characters are nothing to write home about either — Oliver Bronstein isn’t particularly interesting. His teacher, Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd) is the only fun character, and he’s onscreen even less than McCarthy.

Melissa McCarthy gets a sudden Oscar moment late in the movie when her character, Maggie Bronstein, starts blubbering about the custody battle she obviously deserves to lose, and there’s no reason to care. She isn’t ever onscreen. Just like her son doesn’t care about her because she’s never there, the audience doesn’t care about her because she is never, ever there.

With about 40 minutes left, the movie takes a distinctly Lifetime turn and bad things start to happen to characters who the audience is supposed to care about, but, in distinctly Lifetime fashion, poor, generic writing and tired, predictable plotlines stop them from being worth caring for.

The movie summarizes itself at the end like an English paper written by someone who doesn’t care about the class. This movie got second runner up for People’s Choice at the Toronto International Film Festival, but you have to wonder how an average made-for-TV movie would have done.

St. Vincent will hit wide release Oct. 24.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and news editor for the NT Daily. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter when I can be bothered to make one, and shoot questions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

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