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.
4. Parenthood (92 percent)
Ten years after redefining doofus comedy with 1979's The Jerk, Steve Martin had (mostly) traded in props and pratfalls -- and he cemented his more reflective, mature on-screen persona with his appearance as sensitive dad Gil Buckman in Ron Howard's Parenthood. Blending comedy and drama with crowded casts was trendy for a time in the late '80s (thirtysomething, anyone?), and there are few better examples of the "dramedy" subgenre than this tender, witty look at the tangled bonds between parents and their kids; Parenthood was greeted with a wave of glowing reviews upon its release, many of them reserving their highest praise for the uncommon dexterity with which the story (written by Howard, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel) jumps between its numerous threads. Martin disappointed some critics (and fans) by trading in madcap laughs for gentle observations, but there's no denying he did it well. As Rolling Stone's Peter Travers pointed out, "It's a shock, and a welcome one, to see Steve Martin cast against type as a doting dad. Martin's nippy wit continually lifts this movie above the swamp of sentiment."
3. Roxanne (93 percent)
The years leading up to Roxanne were not the most active ones for Steve Martin -- after 1984's All of Me, he surfaced only to make a brief appearance in 1986's Little Shop of Horrors remake and co-star with Chevy Chase and Martin Short in ¡Three Amigos! the same year -- and this was due, in part, to the time he spent working on the script for Roxanne. A loose modern update on Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac, it stars Martin as C.D. "Charlie" Bales, a small-town fire chief and all-around good guy who just happens to have an enormous nose. Afraid to express his feelings for the titular object of his affections (played by Daryl Hannah), he compensates by helping a loutish volunteer fireman woo her. Like many Martin movies, Roxanne is unabashedly sweet, and although some critics found it overly sentimental -- Variety dismissed it as "hopelessly sappy stuff" -- most agreed with the Washington Post's Hal Hinson, who held it up as "the most unabashed, and most satisfying, romantic movie to come along in years" and "a swooning, delicate, heart-on-its-sleeve work."