_ In this entry I chronicle my feelings about Steve Martin and introduce the Steve Martin Poster Test_
Steve Martin: SNL, “The Jerk”, “The Man with Two Brains”, “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” - pure comic genius.
After this foray he did some interesting meta-film films: “Grand Canyon” and “LA Story”. These films marked an interesting - and definitely NOT BAD turn in his career. I mean, he could have done more of the same, but I support a creative person’s right to expand into new directions. I would even include “Leap of Faith” in this grouping, although that definitely was a bad movie (although interesting in concept).
He then moved onto these family movies. I didn’t mind “Parenthood” too much (the “electric ear cleaner” scene still cracks me up) and (shameless Romantic that I am) “Father of the Bride” was very funny in that family-safe funny sort of way.
Steve has lately gotten into writing. Shopgirl received very good reviews and is soon to be a feature film with Claire Danes (although I always saw the Shopgirl as a Gwyneth Paltrow) as the girl, and Jimmy Fallon (a funny guy who is surely awaiting the loveable clod role that will help him break the SNL curse/blessing). I liked Shopgirl as it blended the Romantic Steve with the LA cultural critic Steve. Yay Steve!
Steve also got a big “Yay” for his recent mastering of ceremonies. He was lively and far less annoying than other MCs (anyone who hosted Comic Relief).
Alright, but since when did he become grist for hackneyed comedic pablum? Did he make a deal that in exchange for writing acumen he would sell his comedic soul?
Let’s take a look at his last couple of movies:
Bringing Down the House
Father of the Bride II
Whoa Steve! These movies all catered to hackneyed comedy. Making love in front of Tavern on the Green in Central Park? Playing “The White Guy” for a race relations pillorying? Needlessly resurrecting Phil Silvers’ con-man commander (I never liked Bilko, it is far too cynical). Ugh. Like Fredo, Steve, you’re breaking my heart.
Speaking of race relations, I wonder how much Steve got for selling his career path to Eddie Murphy who is now apparently in the family humor segment of the Steve Martin Career Plan (tm).
Nonetheless, Steve has never failed to surprise and a look on IMDB of his upcoming projects make me hold hope that he’s going to move back into that serious actor / edging on dramatic / edgy comedy zone again. “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” (also written by Steve) would seem to be edging him in the direction of “The Spanish Prisoner”, ditto for “Shopgirl” the movie.
So what’s a fan to do, you have Good Steve and then you have Pablum Steve. How is a fan to determine which movies merit his $9.00 (and Hollywood wonders why the video game industry is eating their lunch?). I introduce the Steve Martin Poster Test:
If Steve is on the poster and has a facial expression (airbrushed or otherwise) that implies: “What’s that smell” or “Holy shit I’m about to be hit by a bus driven by a crack-addict!” or “I’m so self content that my smile must be approximating perfectly horizontal” then you should save your money and read Shopgirl or rent “The Jerk”.
This test would have saved you from “Father of the Bride II”, “Bringing Down the House”, and “Bowfinger”.
I have to give Steve some leeway on “Bowfinger” as he got to work with Heather Graham (maybe he was secretly thinking of her being the Shopgirl and the movie was simply an investigation?). I’m amazed at how many bad roles she’s portrayed since her amazing breakout in “Boogie Nights.”