Coming from left field though it may be, and with everybody’s favourite type-cast anti-hero, Bill Murray, as its protagonist, Theodore Melfi’s churchy morality tale is as cheesy and every bit as predictable as Annie.
Vincent (Murray) is an irascible old punter and drink-driver who is cranky, rude and selfish – but we are meant to like him because he is Bill Murray, and mega-star Murray flies the flag for the outsider so many of us want to be.
He reverses his groovy retro car over his own white picket fence (a white picket fence? for Murray?) but lets his new neighbour, single-mum Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), bear the cost of it.
Later, he will withdraw all the money from the savings of Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher), Maggie’s son, to bet on a trifecta in the hope of paying off his debts.
He is a man of fashionable cynicism but no redeeming qualities, apart from the fact that he regularly visits his dying wife – and is that so exemplary?
Oliver, bullied at school, comes under the reprobate’s wing and you can see from a mile off where we’re headed.
McCarthy is terrific as the modern woman carrying the world on her shoulders – working double shifts at the hospital to do the right thing by her kid while Vincent pisses the money she gives him to mind Oliver up against the wall.
It is so annoying that the script is written to portray Vincent as a saintly character while Maggie’s efforts go unheralded.
Having said that, Murray gives a classic performance as Murray (for mine, an actor of limited range), while Lieberher really is sweet and Naomi Watts clearly has a lot of fun as Daka, the pregnant Russian(?) hooker with a heart of gold (what else?).
The idea that everybody is good if you strip away a few coarse layers is fine, but Vincent does nothing to earn his salvation and, in the end, it’s a bit of a stretch to believe that he is any the wiser.
~ John Campbell