As soon as Steve Martin, in his first major movie role at the age of 34, tells us he was born a poor black child, you know you’re in for a bizarre ride, as Martin’s Navin R. Johnson, raised by a poor black family when abandoned on their doorstep as a baby, discovers he was adopted (“You mean I’m gonna stay this colour?”) and heads out into the world to find his future. Martin nails his naive, boyish role, capturing a childlike excitement at everything, and the tone retains an occasionally ludicrous but always hilarious feel, as Navin rises to greatness, then crashes down again. This was the perfect vehicle to shoot Martin into superstardom, showcasing his excellent comic timing, random sense of humour and skill with a pratfall.
Sneaking its way onto the list at number 500 of Empire’s top 500 films is the 2001 remake of Ocean’s Eleven, one of the few remakes on the list to surpass its original. This film relies on the complexity of the genius heist plot and the easy camaraderie and star wattage of its leads to create an enjoyable and cerebral popcorn flick. But as usual it’s the small moments of humour that meant the most to me, especially how the story and characters play with the real-life personas of the actors playing them. For example, at the beginning of the film Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan and George Clooney’s Danny Ocean are teaching ‘movie stars’ how to play poker. The so-called stars they are schooling include small screen heartthrobs Topher Grace (That 70s Show,) Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek) and Holly Marie Combs (Charmed), each playing themselves, and here dubbed as major movie stars, being photographed by the paparazzi whilst Pitt and Clooney, at the time two of the most famous faces in the world, are ignored by everyone. Another parallel is Pitt and Clooney’s teaching of Matt Damon’s rookie conman Linus Caldwell, in a sense showing Pitt and Clooney teaching Damon how to become a star as renowned as them, with Damon continuing his meteoric rise to fame with the Ocean’s Eleven, arguably reaching the same level as Pitt and Clooney. Finally, Pitt’s performance as a fake doctor parodies Clooney’s stint on ER, especially his flamboyant overacting.
Choose film 9/10