Six Underrated Steve Martin Film Performances

Steve Martin and Helena Bonham Carter in Novocaine
Steve Martin and Helena Bonham Carter in Novocaine
Artisan Entertainment

Renaissance man Steve Martin will take the stage at the Meyerson Symphony Center tonight, but he won't just be wielding a microphone. The funny man also happens to be an author, playwright, songwriter and Grammy-award winning banjo player, who has not one but two #1 bluegrass albums (The Crow and Rare Bird Alert, both with The Steep Canyon Rangers) under his belt -- aside from his gold, platinum and double platinum comedy albums, of course.

Tonight's show is about bluegrass, yes, but rather than treading upon the musical territory of DC9, we're talking Martin from a different angle.

In honor of the wildest and craziest guy of them all, we take a look back at a few of Steve-a-rino's more underrated performances. Check them out after the jump.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978) Dr. Maxwell Edison

Stevie's feature film debut just happened to be a musical one, playing the serial killer turned plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Edison in

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

, which also starred The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton and was based primarily on The Beatles' 1967 album of the same name. You can definitely see elements from Martin's signature stand-up style here, as well as the groundwork being laid for the character of Orin Scrivello, DDS in 1986's

Little Shop of Horrors

. In short, things get creepy.

The Muppet Movie (1979) Insolent Waiter

Steve Martin! Muppets! The banjo! What's not to love? Seriously, if this combination of things doesn't put a smile on your face, it's likely that there is a black ball of felt where your heart is supposed to be.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982) Rigby Reardon

That's a montage of the film's funniest scenes but you'll probably only need to watch the first one to be reminded why Detective Rigby Reardon made this list.

DMDWP

reteamed Martin with his

Jerk

Upcoming Events

director, Carl Reiner...not that Carl Reiner is a jerk...you know what I mean. Anyhoo, there's an art form to pulling off film noir parody and Martin & Co. did it, see. See, right there, I just proved with that unfunny noir reference that it's a feat in itself. Anyhoo times two, the black and white flick also gave us a look at what Martin looks like with dark hair. Seriously, did that guy come out of the womb with his signature white locks?

 

Bowfinger (1999) Robert K. Bowfinger

This is one of those films that would have been doomed to becoming a completely forgettable late '90s comedy. That is, if it weren't for Steve Martin's hilarious script and performance as a B-movie director trying to get his sci-fi love story made without the knowledge of its star. Every time I catch it on TV, I just can't help but watch. And if you watch closely, you can see the exact moment Eddie Murphy's career began to die.

Novocaine (2001) Dr. Frank Sangster

Steve sure likes to play dentists! But in this R-rated tale of sex, drugs and rock hard enamel, he takes a slightly darker turn than comedies prior. The film was met with so/so reviews but the thing I always like about it -- and Martin's performance -- was that it explored the dark side of dentistry and the roots of that age-old myth that the profession claims the highest suicide rate.

Shopgirl (2005) Ray Porter

Mr. Martin's dramatic turn in the film based on his own novella of the same name, wasn't his first (

The Spanish Prisoner

,

Grand Canyon

), but it could be the greatest. (Is there anything this guy can't do?).

Shopgirl

is one of those films that came out in the

Garden State

-era of youth-driven indie dramas but never seemed to quite find an audience like some of its peers. That's all too unfortunate because Martin's performance, along with those from Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman, as part of an unlikely love triangle is beautiful. Every once in awhile the film will come up in a conversation and I'm delighted to find there are other people out there that adore this film. And then that conversation usually leads to the eternal question "Who would you choose; a rich Steve Martin or a poor Jason Schwartzman?"

Honorable Mention: Parenthood (1989) Gil Buckman

I couldn't justifiably put this one on the list because it being directed by Ron Howard and nominated for two Oscars makes it hard to argue the case that it's underrated, but I just had to make mention of it for the fact that it was the first Steve Martin film I remember seeing as a kid and immediately wanting him to be my dad. What kid wouldn't want a father that digs through a dumpster for your lost retainer or rides into your birthday party as a tiny hat-wearing cowboy?

Obviously, there's an entire piece waiting to be done highlighting bits from every one of Martin's roles, both underrated and appropriately rated. Did your favorites make the list? If not, what Martin character are you fond of and why?

James Wallace is the Jedi Master of IHeartCinema.net.
Follow him: @JamesWallace and IHC.net: @IHeartCinemaNet on Twitter.
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