Groundhog Day: Five underappreciated Bill Murray roles

It's Groundhog Day today, a holiday nobody would give a single shit about if it weren't for the 1993 Bill Murray film by the same name, because that movie is awesome. In some ways, it was Murray's career-defining role -- not because the movie was an outstanding piece of film history or because it was the role with the most gravitas -- his late period has given him some profound roles to chew on -- but because it opened up the spotlight for Murray to be so Murray-ish, the smarmy, condescending, glib, volatile and hilarious Murray we all know and love.

It's a Murray-ness that Murray's brought to everything he's ever done, even if some of that stuff happened to be otherwise forgettable or awful -- and since we all know Bill Murray makes a great underdog, here are a few highlights from his underdog body of work.

Just as a side note, these are not rated -- just in chronological order, because you can't put a rating on Bill Murray.

Hunter Thompson, Where the Buffalo Roam Though these days we mostly remember Johnny Depp as Hunter Thompson in Terry Gilliam's 1998 interpretation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it's lesser known that Bill Murray beat him to it in 1980's Where the Buffalo Roam, playing the character, interestingly, as somewhat less of a weirdo. Still, the portrayal is distinctly Thompson-ish, and Murray's better suited for it than you might think.

Jeff Slater, Tootsie It's pretty notable that, in a film that starred Dustin Hoffman as a transvestite -- a role that got him nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor, just by the way -- Murray came close to upstaging him in a minor role as his drunken roommate. Probably the best moment comes toward the end of this reel, with Murray slurred and twitchy delivering an incoherent rant about the American Indian.

Ernie McCracken, Kingpin The mid-nineties were not kind to Bill Murray. He was out of fashion and not exactly getting offered the cream of the crop in terms of scripts -- case in point, Kingpin, which was a box office hit but a failure in pretty much every other way except Bill Murray, who nails what he has to work with in the delightfully sleazy Ernie McCracken in the smarm-oozing way only Bill Murray could. The lines aren't great, but the delivery is fantastic.

Follow us on Twitter! Kenneth Bowden, Wild Things Wild Things was a truly awful movie, an incoherent thriller that existed almost exclusively for the purpose of making Neve Campbell and Denise Richards creepily make out -- this was the '90s, after all, when that shit was craaazy. The single pinpoint of light in that 98-minute black hole was Bill Murray's side role as Matt Dillon's lawyer -- watch him ad lib on the line above -- it's awesome. And congratulations, you've now saved yourself the trouble of seeing the movie.

Agent 13, Get Smart The 2008 remake of the Don Adams classic Get Smart was mostly unnecessary, but one of its few truly good scenes involves Bill Murray in a tree, playing off the Murray-renaissance tinge of sadness that got added to his persona over the course of films like Lost in Translation and everything by Wes Anderson. It's less than a minute long, but it proves that Murray, if only for a shining second, makes everything better.

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Jef Otte
Contact: Jef Otte