It's the easiest pitch in Hollywood: Bill Murray is a cantankerous codger with a hidden heart of gold. What self-respecting (and profit-hungry) film studio wouldn't give that movie the green light? Since his 1998 career restart in Wes Anderson's Rushmore, Murray has become a hipster icon mostly through wide-ranging variations on a single, endlessly appealing character. Writer/director Ted Melfi's St. Vincent provides Murray with another opportunity to show his stuff in the form of Vin, a chronically broke and foul-mouthed senior citizen with a significant drinking problem and a prostitute (Naomi Watts) for a girlfriend. Vin isn't funny enough to be endearing, but that doesn't stop Murray from making him interesting. The movie doesn't fare as well overall, working overtime to avoid sentimentality only to succumb in spectacular style shortly before the credits roll.
St. Vincent tells a familiar story of unlikely compatriots when Vin becomes accidental mentor to 12-year old Oliver (newcomer and onscreen natural Jaeden Lieberher), son of his new neighbor Maggie (Melissa McCarthy, in an atypically serious role). First-time feature director Melfi has made more than a hundred commercials and a slew of short films, and he has a little trouble with pacing in the full-length format. Plentiful music selections ranging from Jefferson Airplane to The National show the director's eclectic tastes, but often seem out of place in the context of the movie. The second major film in a month (after The Drop) to celebrate old-school outer-borough Brooklyn, St. Vincent makes amends through an unmistakable 1970s vibe. With Bill Murray involved, it dosn't need much more than that.