Why Quentin Tarantino Prefers Chevy Chase to Bill Murray
Quentin Tarantino has Opinions with a capital O. In his new book of essays, Cinema Speculation, QT sets us straight about Steve McQueen (his sixties movies were way better than Paul Newman’s and Warren Beatty’s), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the Pod People were actually the good guys), and Robert Preston (dude was amazing in The Music Man). And when it comes to comedy? Quentin thinks Chevy Chase characters have something going for them that Bill Murray’s do not. Basically, Chase’s movies allow him to be a “fucking bastard,” while poor Murray gets comedy-neutered.
“How does Murray in Stripes go from being an iconoclastic pain the ass, who deserves to be beat up by Drill Sergeant Warren Oates, to rallying the troops (That’s the fact, Jack!), and masterminding a covert mission on foreign soil?” wonders Quentin, noting that Stripes was actually one of Murray’s hip movies.
In Tarantino's world, Murray’s characters are pretty freaking cool just as they are. So why couldn’t Murray get the Chase treatment? “More often than not,” he observes, “Chase remained the same sarcastic aloof asshole at the film’s end he was at the beginning.” Or sometimes, those characters even got worse. In National Lampoon’s Vacation, Chase’s Clark Griswold is a smug, self-absorbed jerk trying to create the perfect family trip. When things don’t go his way, does Clark learn a lesson about what it really takes to forge meaningful relationships with his wife and children? Hell no, he goes completely unhinged and pulls a pistol on poor John Candy, eventually tangling with a SWAT team that throws him in cuffs.
Murray, on the other hand, seems to have conversion baked into his comedies like Groundhog Day and Scrooged. In fact, says Quentin, transformation seems to be the whole point.
But does Murray really need converting? “Yeah, maybe he charmed Andie MacDowell, but does anybody think a less sarcastic Bill Murray is a better Bill Murray?” Quentin will take the caustic version. “I've always rejected the idea that Bill Murray's characters needed redemption.”
Perhaps redemption's better accomplished for Bill IRL. Chevy let that ship sail long ago.