Total Recall: Steve Martin's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed films of the noted actor, writer, director, and wild and crazy guy.
8. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (88 percent)
Faithful in story, if not entirely in spirit, to 1964's David Niven/Marlon Brando farce Bedtime Story, 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels acts as a sort of closing chapter in the career of Steve Martin, absurdist funnyman; after yukking it up with Michael Caine in the French countryside for this tale of dueling grifters -- and offending eyepatch-wearing inbreds everywhere with his unforgettable scenes as Ruprecht the Monkey Boy -- Martin mostly avoided abject silliness until signing on for The Pink Panther. Critics were, for the most part, quite kind to Scoundrels; although they were quick to point out the film's recycled origins, as well as the occasional plot defect, the fun being had by the leads is as obvious as it is infectious. In the words of the BBC's George Perry, "there is a slightly perfunctory air in the way the story unreels as though it's all been done before. Nevertheless, Caine and Martin make a great double act."
7. The Spanish Prisoner (88 percent)
Although Martin had attempted a number of dramatic roles by the late 1990s, his appearance in David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner still seemed like something of a revelation -- partly because it came during a period in which Martin was receiving positive notice for branching out into new areas (the 1993 play Picasso at the Lapin Agile; his essay-writing gig for the New Yorker), and partly because it was a good deal more entertaining than any of his recent comedies (including Mixed Nuts and Sgt. Bilko). Of course, the star of any Mamet production is Mamet's script -- something pointed out by several critics who took issue with the many Mamet-isms in The Spanish Prisoner's dialogue -- but Martin acquitted himself admirably as Jimmy Dell, the mysterious stranger who may or may not be pulling the strings in a high-stakes con, impressing writers like Filmcritic's Christopher Null, who wrote "Steve Martin and Campbell Scott -- wow! Who knew they had such talent?"