Great Performances: Steve Martin in the Funniest Films!
The master of comedy is Steve Martin. I’ve long respected the man for his amazing talents, charisma, and wit. He is a creative genius who also works as a stand-up comedian, writer, producer, and musician. He is still producing high-caliber content at the ripe old age of 77, including the excellent Murders in the Building on Hulu (co-starring his friend Martin Short) and the Netflix special Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life (also with Short). Martin has been a major player in Hollywood for more than 40 years, which is quite difficult to do.
Many of you young people might not be familiar with Martin’s music. I’ve put together five classic films that showcase the famous actor’s comedic genius. Yes, it was challenging to compile this list because Martin has a long history of producing hilarious things, but I tried my best.
Harris K. Telemacher in L.A. Story (1991)
The problem of describing Steve Martin’s sense of humor is formidable. Is he eccentric? Colorful? Silly? Clever? Sharp? Sophisticated? the entire list? These descriptions can be used to describe Martin’s brilliantL.A. The story, his unconventional love letter to Los Angeles.
Here is a film that is both cynical and hopeful, grounded and whimsical, funny and thought-provoking. Martin’s screenplay makes fun of everything about Los Angeles, including its congested (and dangerous) roads, upscale food options, arrogant residents, peculiar social systems, and perpetual magic.
Martin drastically changes from the wild and chaotic persona he built early in his career as the weary meteorologist Harris K. Telemacher without holding back on the chuckles. Harris practically skates through life before running into a freeway sign that starts lecturing him about the ins and outs of love and life. Imagine ThinkJoe Versus the Volcano, but with more dry satire.
Among Martin’s funniest and greatest movies to date.
Lucky Day in Three Amigos! (1986)
Three Amigos! may only be regarded as a modest comedy classic with the A-list cast of Martin Short, Steve Martin, and Chevy Chase. However, this wild and zany epic has plenty of side-splitting humor to enjoy if you get used to the silly antics.
Three Amigos!, directed by John Landis, centers on a group of silent film celebrities who, as a result of a series of misunderstandings, find themselves in a real-life conflict with a deadly Mexican gang. They embark on a series of outrageous adventures as they travel, coming across everything from an enchanted singing bush to an invisible swordsman. Even though it’s just filler, Martin, Chase, and Short elevate the work to the level of art.
Roger Cobb in All of Me (1984)
It’s amazing that more people don’t discuss Carl Reiner’s All of Me more frequently. As Roger Cobb, a dejected lawyer played by Steve Martin, the spirit of a dead lady (Lily Tomlin) unexpectedly takes possession of his body. Martin practically carries this ridiculous, but endearing, piece of old-fashioned entertainment because of his astounding physical comedy talent.
Neal Page in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
The pairing of Steve Martin and the legendary John Candy in one of the best buddy comedies of all time, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, is as successful as you might anticipate. Martin plays the stuffy advertising executive Neal Page, who travels through two days of Hell with Candy’s well-intentioned but ultimately foolish Del Griffith to a Thanksgiving feast. Naturally, the two become closer during their trying voyage, which results in a surprisingly emotional climax that neatly bows this one up for the holidays.
Gil Buckman in Parenthood
In Parenthood, my favorite Steve Martin movie, the actor is surrounded by an amazing cast that includes Dianne Wiest, Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Rick Moranis, Keanu Reeves, and a teenage Joaquin Phoenix. If she’s so smart, why is she sitting in our neighbor’s car?
Martin gets plenty of chances to show off his quick wit and impeccable comic timing in Ron Howard’s dramedy, which covers the joys and challenges of, well, fatherhood. He is supported by a strong ensemble cast, a clever story, and Howard’s competent direction, all of which combine to make Parenthood a wonderful (and sadly underappreciated) classic.
Honorable Mention: The Jerk & Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Feel free to watch Roxanne, The Man with Two Brains, Bowfinger, and Pennies from Heaven if that isn’t enough.