Bill Murray Battle! Which Bill Murray do you like better? Wisecracking, funnyman Murray, or solemn, dramatic Murray?
Bill Murray! Bill Freakin' Murray, man!
-- Tallahassee, Zombieland (2009)
My sentiments exactly. Bill Freakin' Murray, man! Bill Murray is my idol. I'm a little disappointed that when I grew up, I didn't grow up to become Bill Murray. But it turns out that there can be only one Bill Murray.
So what is ol' Mr. Murray up to nowadays? Besides steadfastly refusing to be in Ghostbusters 3 (good call, Bill, although The Reckoner! disagrees with me on that one), he apparently has no agent or manager. Legend has it, he agreed to star in the movie Garfield because he saw that 'Joel Cohen' was attached, although it later turned out that this 'Joel Cohen' was not the 'Joel Coen' of Coen brothers fame, but it was too late to back out. And there are all of the 'but no one will believe you' street-bear-hugging stories. Fun stuff.
Now, when it comes to Bill Murray's career, there are really two distinct flavors to it:
- Wisecracking Funny Guy Murray
Peter Venkman. John Winger. Bob Wiley. Phil Connors. Frank Cross. Did you maybe, just maybe, crack a faint smile in thinking about the images associated with any of those names? All of these characters should be, for the most part, completely obnoxious and impossible to like. They're all either venal, mean-spirited bastards, hopeless mental cases, or both. And yet you love all of them! Such is the magic of Murray.
- Solemn, Dramatic Murray
Bill Murray's career was always built on a detached deadpan, so it didn't take much to twist that detachment from humor to drama. He'd always had the inclination to go dramatic (he did the original Ghostbusters only on the contingency that the studio would also fund The Razor's Edge), and once his comedic headlining career looked over in the late 90s, the drama found him. Rushmore. Lost in Translation. Broken Flowers. The Royal Tenenbaums.
Just as he could take mean bastards and make them fundamentally likeable, Murray could take inert, hopelessly passive protagonists and make them engaging. Such is the magic of Murray.
Ah, but which flavor of Murray is better?
You've got to help me decide, Dear Reckonauts! How do you prefer your Murray? Cracking wise, or staring into the middle distance?