Thursday, January 01, 2009

Movie Log: The Man Who Knew Too Little

I'm vastly far behind on writing about movies I've seen -- and I've said that a couple of times recently, too, without anything getting any better.

Let's see: The Man Who Knew Too Little. Right in the middle of Bill Murray's wandering-in-the-desert years; he was still getting movie roles (starring ones, too), but the movies were mostly forgettable, didn't make a whole lot of money, and audiences weren't paying much attention to him. This one is from 1997, between those pillars of cinema, Larger Than Life and Wild Things. Rushmore would come along the next year, and give a hint at Murray's next move, but Too Little is still Murray in his early smug mode, long past the time it was working for him.

It's actually a solid comedy -- it's not amazingly successful, but it was aiming to be solid and entertaining, and succeeds at its modest goals.

Murray is Wally Ritchie, who's in "the movie business" -- he works at a video-rental store in some forgettable American city. He's in London visiting his younger, vastly more successful brother Jimmy (Peter Gallagher, as one of the straightest straight men you've ever seen), who unfortunately has a dinner party with a group of boring, stuck-up Germans, and so has to get Wally out of his hair. He signs Wally up for an expensive immersive theater experience -- only one person per night, but that person is at the center of a thrilling mystery plot for several hours.

Wally is game, in that casual, aw-shucks, self-disregarding way of the classic Bill Murray Doofus, and sets off to enjoy his evening. And of course he gets caught up in a real spy plot, which he thinks is all pretend -- so he's very off-hand about it all, which impresses the real spies. He even meets a girl, Lorelei (Joanne Whalley), and eventually finds himself in a new line of work.

The plot is really just an armature to give Murray reasons to say and do funny things in various situations, and it functions adequately as such. Murray is his usual entertaining self -- this time he dials down the smug and dials up the bumbler -- though it's all rarely as good as the viewer feels it should be. Man Who Knew Too Little is a mildly funny movie; it's possible to laugh out loud a couple of times, if one is really transported, but it's not all that likely.

The reason to see The Man Who Knew Too Little -- it's why I saw it, anyway -- is to catch up on an minor Bill Murray movie, from when his original shtick was slowing down, but he still had most of his hair. Murray's nearly always pleasant to watch on screen, so Too Little is enjoyable, as long as you don't expect Too Much.

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