“St. Vincent” is a charmer.
Despite a script that could have easily strayed into formula melodrama, the film works thanks to the cast – especially Bill Murray, who offers one of 2014’s more endearing performances.
Murray plays Vincent, an abrasive, drunken, surly man who seems to care about no one but himself.
Recently divorced Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her young son Oliver (newcomer Jaeden Lieberher) move in next door, and Vincent is coerced one afternoon into watching Oliver for the afternoon.
This leads to a full-time gig for Vincent, who begins to show his softer side. The two develop an unlikely friendship, and Vincent becomes a mentor to Oliver.
Theodore Melfi’s script (he also directed) doesn’t offer many surprises. It all evolves in a rather familiar pattern, complete with scenes designed to tug the heartstrings. Some of these moments work; some feel a little overdone.
The story’s predictability is compensated by the cast.
It was nice to see McCarthy play something besides her previous roles in “Tammy,” “Identity Thief” and “Bridesmaids.” Lieberher easily could have been that annoying kid actor who sinks films like this, but he is solid, too.
There is also nice supporting work from Naomi Watts as a pregnant Russian hooker often employed by Vincent and Chris O’Dowd as the priest at Oliver’s new school.
But Murray makes “St. Vincent” work. It’s right in the actor’s wheelhouse, full of sarcastic one-liners, with a hint of a dramatic element that humanizes Vincent. This is a chance to see the 64-year-old actor at his best, a role that fans of Murray are sure to enjoy.
Also in theaters
Less enjoyable is “Ouija” (D) – the horror film entry for the Halloween season based on a Hasbro board game.
It’s a completely by-the-numbers spookfest that suffers from perhaps the worst possible fate for a film in this genre – it’s rather boring.
Olivia Cooke plays Laine, a high school girl distraught when her best friend Dorris (Sierra Heuermann) apparently commits suicide.
Looking for answers, she convinces her other friends to help her try to speak to Dorris from beyond the grave by using a ouija board. The plan backfires when instead of communicating with Dorris, they summon a demon that is determined to bring harm to everyone that used the board.
“Ouija” might as well have been called Walt Disney’s “Ouija” because it is so tame. There’s little to no blood and very few scares. The PG-13 rating certainly helped at the box office, with the film opening at No. 1 this weekend, but it hurt the overall effect of the film. It’s the equivalent of a camp fire ghost story that has been watered down so the 8-year-old campers can listen and not be too scared.
The cast tries, but they’re all pretty expendable. Cooke probably fares the best, but after appearances in “The Quiet Ones” and the TV series “Bates Motel,” it may be time to branch out as an actress.
Fans of horror films can do a lot better this Halloween than “Ouija,” which may be slightly better than “Annabelle,” but still manages to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors with not many tricks up its sleeve.
“Ouija” is rated PG-13 for disturbing violent content, frightening horror images, and thematic material and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.