Today! Because they had trouble with the surface to air missiles, so it’s in the shop –
The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)
Directed by Jon Amiel
Starring Bill Murray, Joanne Whalley, Alfred Molina, Peter Gallagher, Richard Wilson, John Standing, Geraldine James (x2), Anna Chancellor, Terence Harvey, Eddie Marsan (x2), J.E. Freeman, Maxwell Caulfield
We finally reach the first film from future list frequenter William Murray, in what many consider one of his lesser efforts. Disagree! Sure, it’s kind of light, silly nonsense, but Murray’s committed performance as unwitting boob Wallace Ritchie, thrust into a real world spy adventure he thinks is performance art elevates what could’ve been trifling silliness to something often near absurdist brilliance. You don’t often think of Bill Murray as being overly adept at playing morons – his track record is mostly arrogant jerks rebelling against authority figures – but here and there across his filmography you’ve got Caddyshack and What About Bob? and The Man Who Knew Too Little and a few others, all solidly funny performances against type for the comic legend.
Also invaluable in bringing off this wild tone are Gallagher as his brother James, accidentally tossing Wallace into this mess in the first place, and Molina as the Russian baddie convinced Wally is master spy in complete control of the situation. Sure, if you stare at the details too close, you could probably find flaws with the logic of what’s going on, but that’s besides the point. Again, the absurdity of the whole thing maintains a steady tone, thus delivering very well on the goofy premise. Larger Than Life this is not!
You could also make the case that this is the last all-out wacky starring comedy Murray made – Rushmore was the following year, and aside from some supporting bits in the likes of Charlie’s Angels and Osmosis Jones, his choice of roles got decidedly more serious, and in fewer leads. He still pops up in funny roles – the world’s greatest living comedy actor would have to, right? – but eyeballing it, I can’t see a film after ’97 that you could say was in the zany lead variety of his previous work. Everyone has to evolve sometime! And it was this transitional process that gave us the best of Murray in the following decade. Stay tuned! Many to come!
A pair of #383 Sherlock Holmes actors join the Two-Timers list together today, with Inspector Lestrade Eddie Marsan and Mrs. Hudson Geraldine James both popping up in minor roles here! Spotlight!