Tuesday, July 26, 2011

owen wilson movie night

My 7-year old daughter suggested the other day that we should have an "Owen Wilson Movie Night." Yes, kids do pick up their parents' likes and prejudices, in case you were wondering. I have no problem with her idea, although I suspect that we would have different selections at the top of our lists.

Wilson is always Wilson in whatever he appears in, much like Bogie was Bogie. But the comparisons end there. What is nice about Wilson is his niceness. Onscreen he is the most easygoing of actors, whether in the lead part or one of many in a large ensemble. He may always be himself, but he can appear in a wide variety of movie genres, from kid's movie to thriller to tearjerker family flick to arthouse. I can't think of a movie I've seen him in where his appearance hasn't made me smile, whether I ended up liking the movie or not.

With Sara Foster in The Big Bounce
But a calm exterior may mask inner turmoil. Wilson is very convincing as a blocked writer in his most recent hit, Midnight in Paris. Wilson is a writer in real life as well as an actor. He co-wrote The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Rushmore (1998), and both the Bottle Rocket feature (1996) and short (1994).

Like her mom, my daughter has sophisticated tastes — she went with me to see Midnight in Paris, and although a lot of the art, literary, and Woody Allen's Ugly American in-jokes went over her head, she still loved it, as she could connect to Wilson's character and his problems getting along with his not-so-nice girlfriend. Wilson managed to stay his easygoing, appealing self, not completely surrendering to Allen-clone neurotic behavior as has befallen so many other actors who have starred in the Woodman's movies.

Here are some worthy films to add to any Owen Wilson movie marathon. The kid would love to see:
As Coach Skip in Fantastic Mr. Fox
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - His voice work as the Coach is unmistakable and this is just a charming, quirky little movie. 
The kid would definitely pick a Night At the Museum double-header to top her movie marathon, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009) and Night at the Museum (2006) - Both movies are silly, but also fun, and my daughter loves him as the miniature cowboy Jedediah ("No problemo, Gigantor.")
As Jedediah in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
My top picks include:
The Big Bounce (2004) - Most people have probably not even heard of this movie, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard, but I love it. Wilson plays a small-time con artist in Hawaii who gets pulled into a scheme and gets in way over his head. Soon Morgan Freeman, Gary Sinise, Sara Foster and just about everyone he meets is out to get him. "Have a little faith in people. Not God, cause he's just an imaginary friend for grown ups." 
Zoolander (2001) - This is on the kid's list too, but that's my fault. I love Hansel. "I wasn't like every other kid, you know, who dreams about being an astronaut, I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree. Richard Gere's a real hero of mine. Sting. Sting would be another person who's a hero. The music he's created over the years, I don't really listen to it, but the fact that he's making it, I respect that. I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I'm selling? No. Do I know what I'm doing today? No. But I'm here, and I'm gonna give it my best shot." 
As Hansel in Zoolander
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) - Somewhat incomprehensible at times, but in a good way. "You don't know me, you don't want to know me... I'm just a character in your stupid film." 
Wedding Crashers (2005) - It's lewd, crude, and pretty damn funny. 
Bottle Rocket (1996) - The first time I saw Wilson, and still a good movie. "How does an asshole like Bob get such a great kitchen?"
If none of those titles are available on-demand or Netflix, you could still try:
The Darjeeling Limited (2007) - Another interesting teaming with Wes Anderson. 
Starsky & Hutch (2004) - Dumb fun, but you have to love Stiller for being true to his friends. 
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - Not as good as it should be, but definitely worth a look.
Movies that he (almost) saves — I don't necessarily recommend these, but if you always wanted to check out one of these at least be assured that Wilson will brighten up an otherwise dud of a movie:
How Do You Know (2010) - He is the only likable character in this James Brooks mess of a romantic comedy. 
Marley & Me (2008) - Just awful, if you aren't prepared for the tearjerker ending. Wilson almost makes you believe he wants to be married to Jennifer Aniston, but he is very convincing about loving Marley the dog. 
With cute costar in Marley & Me 
Cars (2006) - I know it's a huge hit with a huge hit sequel. Maybe it's a little boy thing, but neither of us like this movie. It's OK, but the kid didn't even put it on her list. Wilson does a god job voicing it , as does Paul Newman and Bonnie Hunt. 
Meet the Parents (2000) - A really dumb movie, but Wilson, as always, provides a welcome cameo as Stiller's bride-to-be's former boyfriend. But you can't get me to watch Meet the Fockers or Little Fockers, Wilson or no Wilson.
So what are you waiting for? The Owen Wilson-athon begins now!
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