Admittedly marred by a slew of less-than-impressive films of late, the career of the comically ingenious Steve Martin still stands well above those of his contemporaries and has provided a wealth of comedic, as well as dramatic gold.
He is a highly talented performer, who times his lines to perfection and has an understated screen presence that exudes effortless charisma, as well as a mind constantly churning with an unmatched wit and knowledge of his genre. Today, he is underrated, and in a lot of critic circles appears almost forgotten or dismissed. Shame.
Here is a list of my 5 favourite Steve Martin characters:
Note: I did say characters, not films. Hence wonderful hits such as The Jerk, Roxanne and Little Shop of Horrors (1986) not being included (although I suppose I’m including them now). Actually, while I have the chance I’d also just like tostate that I think The Lonely Guy is a great movie, and Larry Hubbard only just missed the cut…
5. Robert K. Bowfinger (Bowfinger,1999)
Broke, talentless, disillusioned and mildly unstable, Bowfinger just wants to make it big as a Hollywood director, and when he can’t land the country’s biggest star, Kit Ramsey, to play the lead in his upcoming ‘Chubby Rain,’ he gets the next best thing…
Bowfinger is a fun, re-watchable delight of a comedy and absolutely did not disappoint in its teaming of Martin and Eddie Murphy. Robert K. Bowfinger himself? A character we’re rooting for from the very beginning to the very end, despite his personality shortcomings and horrible pony-tail.
4. Neal Page (Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987)
Ultimately finding thanksgiving redemption, Neal Page is at his funniest when exuberantly trying to avoid the jolly, boisterous shower ring salesman Del Griffin (John Candy, in one of his best roles also) sharing his route home once their flight is cancelled. The two sharing a hotel bed and rental car much to Neal’s distain is pure character-based comedy, and given the director behind the helm, it’s no wonder Planes, Trains and Automobiles has such longevity.
3. Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (The Man with Two Brains, 1983)
Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr is a troubled soul; the world’s greatest neurosurgeon and creator of the revolutionary cranial screw-top brain
entry is recently widowed and yearns for his late wife. After hitting the beautiful Dolores (Kathleen Turner) with his car, he falls madly in love with her, and she likewise with his money, and the two are quickly married before traveling to Vienna for a medical conference.
It is here that Dr. Hfuhruhurr divorces Dolores and becomes entangled with a mad scientist, a serial killer and again falls in love, only this time it’s with a solitary brain floating in a jar… the telepathic conversations are unlike anything the Dr. has experienced since losing his first wife.
The Man with Two Brains is one of the funniest movies ever made, due entirely to Martin’s inspired performance. His heart-broken doctor embroiled in a murder case is a once-in-a-generation character who endears himself to the audience in the film’s opening minutes and only becomes more and more likable as it progresses. We never question his love for a disembodied brain… enough said.
2. Lucky Day (Three Amigos! 1986)
“In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!”
Lucky Day (Martin), Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) and Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase), three out-of-work actors unknowingly up against the very real bandit and murderer El Guapo each get their share of fantastically funny lines and are equally, uniquely hilarious. Three Amigos! Was my most watched comedy as a child and my education on the genre; the above 3 put-upon heroes left an indelible impression on me that I will never be able to shake, and all it takes is a reading of the above quote for me to smile in an uncontainable fashion.
The best Lucky Day moment? Easy: an effeminate rendition of ‘My Little Buttercup’ in a sleazy, dangerous bar full of outlaws. Also, this
“You dirt-eating piece of slime! You scum-sucking pig! You son of a motherless goat!”
1. Rigby Reardon (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, 1982)
A private eye with a soft spot for a damsel in distress and an insistence that his sidekick Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart, yes, that’s
right) always wear a tie, Rigby Reardon is by far my favourite Steve Martin character; a fantastic creation in an absolutely fabulous, loving homage to the film noir of Hollywood’s golden age.
He narrowly escapes certain death, constantly makes the ladies swoon and concocts a brilliant scheme involving much cross dressing, all in order to save the world from the Nazis and complete his paid job for the helpless Juliet (Rachel Ward). This film, performance and character are reason enough of Martin’s brilliance.