The Matthew Lillard Ready Reckoner

Craig lists the work of an off-beat actor whose career comfortably takes in the sublime and the ridiculous...

Matthew Lillard

Annoying, bug-eyed fruit loop or one of the most underrated actors of our generation? Matthew Lillard certainly is an actor to divide audience opinion. Love him or hate him, you can’t argue that he’s appeared in a metric assload of films. Sadly, only a portion of them appear on the list below as tracking down obscurities like Dish Dogs (a low budget rom-com about finding love amongst the suds) and The Devil’s Child (a made-for-TV Omen rip-off) involves more effort than I suspect the films are worth. However, a valiant effort has been made to penetrate the Lillard oeuvre and put him to the Ready Reckoner, so here we go!

Serial Mom (1994)

4 stars
A young Lillard stars alongside Kathleen Turner in this delightful John Waters comedy which, although tame when put against the director’s earlier works, still manages to fit in some bizarre ideas. It’s from this film that I learnt the whole thing about not wearing white shoes after Labor Day which, as a Brit, has been absolutely useless knowledge, but knowledge nevertheless.

Animal Room (1995)

1 stars
Terrible, mean-spirited, vile trash in which Lillard plays a poor man’s Alex from Clockwork Orange. He’s a school bully who leads a gang in some kind of semi-futuristic school where the kids run riot, kill bunny rabbits, lick old ladies’ faces and pimp themselves out to local pederasts. Unpleasant and moronic stuff and a definite nadir in Lillard’s career, even now.

Hackers (1995)

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5 stars
One of my all-time favourite films, this cartoonish cyberpunk fantasy is super-stylish and endlessly entertaining. Lillard’s “Cereal Killer” character is basically the comic relief but who here’s not laughing at those crazy pigtails he has?

Scream (1996)

2 stars
Smart-ass slasher that thinks it’s better than it is and doesn’t actually get going until the final 20 minutes. These involve a lot of Grade “A” Lillard action, as he shouts, gurns and screams his way through the film’s redemption.

Dead Man’s Curve (1998)

4 stars
Clever and dark black comedy with Lillard finding a loophole in his college’s rules stating that any student whose roommate commits suicide will be automatically granted the highest possible grade. Morally questionable antics ensue, but the tight script and excellent turn from Lillard (truly terrifying at times) make this a excellent little ‘lost gem’.

SLC Punk! (1998)

5 stars
In this, Lillard plays Stevo, one of the last punks in Salt Lake City. Anyone who’s ever liked punk rock and managed to survive their teenage years will totally ‘get’ this beautiful, moving, savage and brilliantly written coming of age film with a difference. Lillard shines.

Scooby Doo (2002)

4 stars
Lillard somehow generates a wholly convincing chemistry with a CGI dog in an Oscar-worthy performance that elevates an otherwise puerile stoner comedy into something altogether more sublime and hilarious. Underrated. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. This is also the only film in which Sarah Michelle Gellar receives a golden shower from a dog (this is genuinely true; I didn’t just write that to get Google hits from total freaks).

The Perfect Score (2004)

2 stars
A subdued and altogether too fleeting Lillard plays The Human Torch’s older brother in this MTV-funded comic caper about students trying to steal exam answers. Pleasant enough, I suppose, but as empty as the MTV production credit would suggest.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)

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2 stars
I kind of have a soft spot for this one – again, mostly due to Lillard’s unbelievable chemistry with the CGI dog – but looking at it objectively, this is a very sub-par sequel with a lot of recycled gags and general incoherence bloating up the already confused script. One or two funny bits (like the dog disco dance) redeem it, but I’d stick with the first…

Without A Paddle (2004)

3 stars
Weirdly compelling male bonding comedy in which Lillard and his buddies (Oz from Buffy and some other dude) go on a treasure hunt and get embroiled in all sorts of Great Outdoors-themed hijinx. Funny and sweet; you could do a lot worse.

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

1 stars
TERRIBLE Uwe Boll film that wrecks the good name he’d been making for himself with movies like Postal and Seed. Lillard plays some kind of evil prince or something – it’s never too clear – and acts like he’s got some kind of flailing limb disorder. Bad bad bad all round. Not a single thing to recommend about this.

Sadly there isn’t a lot of upcoming Lillard to look forward to at the moment. I hope that his glory days aren’t over because, when he wants to be, he’s a talented and charismatic lead. Someone please put him in something good again now!

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