The Steve Martin ready reckoner

Simon thinks that Steve Martin is one of the funniest men on the planet - and he breaks down his movie career to help prove it.

The great Steve Martin

Let’s be clear from the off: I am a huge Steve Martin fan. I’ve read his books, got his stand-up, watched his Saturday Night Live stuff, and think he’s an intelligent and very, very funny man. I, like many, wish he wasn’t so reliant on remakes these days for his movies, but there’s still plenty of gold on his cinematic CV.

Here’s his career in the Den of Geek Ready Reckoner chair…The Muppet Movie

3 out of 5
Not the best of the Muppet movies, which are due a ready reckoner of their own in due course, but a fun film nonetheless. Martin pops up as a waiter.

The Jerk

5 out of 5
Or: the start of the Steve Martin golden age, and the first of his splendid collaborations with Carl Reiner. With gags ranging from his special purpose, to pulling a small church, The Jerk is an all-time comedy classic. Still.Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

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4 out of 5
Occasionally more clever than funny, but never less than enthralling, Carl Reiner’s insanely clever parody of film noir is best remembered for all the old faces it managed to edit in.

The Man With Two Brains

5 out of 5
An astounding comedy, replete with the finest erection joke ever seen on the silver screen. Martin forms a terrific on-screen double act with Kathleen Turner, and there’s brain surgery in the midst of it all as well. Genius.

The Lonely Guy

2 out of 5
A less successful early venture, and quite a melancholy one. Directed by Arthur Hiller (of Love Story fame), it’s not without merit, but never really gels.

All Of Me

5 out of 5
Here’s where the crazy guy comedies come to an end, and this is also the film that sold the brilliance of Martin to me when I caught it on ITV one afternoon. His acting is quite superb, especially when playing the version of him with Lily Tomlin stuck in his head. And the film’s blisteringly funny too.

Three Amigos

2 out of 5
Not sure why, but this one never really worked for me, and I quite like Chevy Chase usually as well. Add in Martin Short, and it should have been a dream team of comedy, but again, it didn’t click for some reason.

Little Shop Of Horrors

3 out of 5
A fun adaptation of the stage musical, and one that sees Martin as the kind of dentist that nobody wants to see in their life. Ever.Roxanne

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4 out of 5
A terrific adaptation of the Cyrano de Bergerac story, with Martin’s script giving him the central role, which he excels in. The 20 insults scene is perhaps the movie-stealer, but the film works equally in its dramatic moments too.Planes, Trains & Automobiles
4 out of 5
How a comedy double act should work. Teaming Steve Martin and John Candy together was a brilliant move, and while the film isn’t his best, it’s got so many standout moments, it’s a hard one to resist.Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
2 out of 5
Another film that many seem to like, but it never quite did it for me. Michael Caine is great, and he and Martin make engaging con-men, but Frank Oz’s comedy isn’t that funny, in spite of the performances.

Parenthood

5 out of 5
For my money, a sorely underrated ensemble comedy, that only takes its eye of the ball with its cheesy ending. There’s plenty of gold before that though, not least Martin’s Gil as Cowboy Dan, the kids entertainer…My Blue Heaven
1 out of 5
Steve Martin and Rick Moranis had worked together a couple of times before, but here it all went wrong. Sold off the back of their Parenthood success, this is a witness protection comedy that lacks laughs. Sorely.

L A Story

3 out of 5
Martin’s self-penned love letter to his home city is a pleasant enough, affectionate film, and does have a few good chuckles along the way. It’s never much more than that, though, even though the road sign scenes are gold.Father Of The Bride

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3 out of 5
Surprisingly entertaining remake of the Spencer Tracy original, with Martin toning down the comedy to make a good leading man. An easy way to lose a couple of hours.

Grand Canyon

3 out of 5
Lawrence Kasdan’s ensemble drama has Martin as the callous movie producer, who gets quite brutally and suddenly shot. The film’s a little too sprawling, but the performances are on the money.

HouseSitter

2 out of 5
The first of two Martin/Goldie Hawn collobarations, and the first of two films together where Hawn grates so much they should stack her next to blocks of cheddar. Martin has one or two good laughs, but the film’s not much cop.

Leap Of Faith

4 out of 5
I really liked this; more drama than comedy, Martin is the evangelistic faith healer-come-conman who hits the buffers when he heads to small town America. Not many other people seemed to like it, though…

A Simple Twist Of Fate

3 out of 5
A perfectly serviceable, amiable take on the old Silas Marner story. Its cast is its strength, with Martin joined by Laura Linney, Gabriel Byrne and Catherine O’Hara.

Mixed Nuts

1 out of 5
An ensemble comedy based around a suicide helpline on Christmas Eve. Nora Ephron’s script and direction needed to be bang on the money to make it work. The former, in particular, really lets the film down.

Father Of The Bride Part II

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2 out of 5
Not a great sequel, and a very unnecessary one. It has its charms, but by the time all the clichés are bundled into the van by the end, it’s long outstayed its welcome.

Sgt Bilko

3 out of 5
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – removed from the Phil Silvers original, Martin’s take on Bilko is a fine comedy film, with a good deal to enjoy within it.

The Spanish Prisoner

4 out of 5
A terrific supporting role in David Mamet’s excellent, twisty mystery thriller. Well worth seeking out.

The Prince Of Egypt

4 out of 5
A rare piece of voiceover work from Martin, in DreamWorks’ debut animated feature. The telling of the story of Moses is a terrific piece of cinema, too, even if there are a few too many songs.

The Out Of Towners

1 out of 5
Steve Martin Goldie Hawn = crap film. This time they dragged John Cleese along too, for yet another remake. It’s one they all should have left alone, just as most of the cinema-going audience did.

Bowfinger

4 out of 5
A brilliant, inspired comedy, conceived and written by Martin. It’s Eddie Murphy who steals the show here though, in arguably his very best cinematic comedy performance.

Novocaine

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3 out of 5
It’s back to the dentists’ chair for this perfectly decent thriller. Can’t remember too much about it anymore, though.

Bringing Down The House

1 out of 5
A horrible, uncomfortable comedy, that staggeringly proved to be a massive hit. Co-starring Queen Latifah, Martin’s rapping is still enough to send shudders down the spine.

Cheaper By The Dozen

2 out of 5
Another huge hit, and in truth, a decent enough family flick. It’s got virtually no ambition in it, and is a comfortable breeze through two hours, with little of note standing out.

Shopgirl

3 out of 5
A fine, small drama based on Martin’s very readable novella of the same name. Claire Danes is the shopgirl of the film’s name, and Martin is the rich customer whose attention she attracts.

Cheaper By The Dozen 2

1 out of 5
Let’s not talk about this one.

The Pink Panther

2 out of 5
Nowhere near as bad as I was expecting, and Martin makes a good Clouseau (although it’s still hard to get the Peter Sellers films out of your head). It’s still not much of a film, though, as it runs out of steam too early. The sequel will follow next year.

Not seen: Pennies From Heaven (a serious role sandwiched in-between his early 80s comedies)Joe Gould’s Secret (a drama from the year 2000)Looney Tunes: Back In Action (but should watch it, me bad)

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