Tuesday, April 27, 2021

When Bill Murray’s Brother Played The Bill Murray Part In A Forgotten ‘80s Comedy

John Murray in the 1985 comedy MOVING VIOLATIONS
International superstar, and the most beloved SNL veteran ever, Bill Murray has five brothers, some of whom you may know of. Firstly, there’s Brian Doyle Murray, who also had a stint on SNL, and appeared with his brother in several movies including CADDYSHACK, SCROOGED, and GROUNDHOG DAY. Then there’s Joel Murray, who has appeared on many TV shows including Mad Men, Shameless, and Dharma & Greg, and in many films including ONE CRAZY SUMMER, GOD BLESS AMERICA, and THE ARTIST.

Thirdly, there’s the late Ed Murray, who while not an actor is cited as the inspiration for CADDYSHACK, and appeared in a 2009 documentary about the classic film. Fourth, there’s Andy Murray, a chef who co-founded and runs Murray Brothers Caddyshack sports bar and grill, which has locations in St. Augustine and Rosemount.

But while his siblings have ridden on Bill’s coattails to varying degrees, only one brother has imitated the comic actor’s presence so blatantly. That would be John Murray, who in 1985 starred in a long forgotten comedy entitled MOVING VIOLATIONS, in which he aped nearly all of his older brothers’ moves.

The film was directed by Neal Israel, who has the given the world such crappy comedies as AMERICATHON, BACHELOR PARTY, and COMBAT ACADEMY. Israel co-wrote it with Pat Proft, also a beacon of quality, who co-wrote POLICE ACADEMY, HIGH SCHOOL HIGH, MR. MAGOO, and WRONGFULLY ACCUSED (his lone directorial effort), but at least did contribute to some decent comic work such as the NAKED GUN series.

The premise of MOVING VIOLATIONS is pretty typical for an ‘80s us-versus-them scenario in which a group of misfits go up against the evil establishment, or more accurately one particular individual, in this case a cold, corrupt cop played by James Keach (acting legend Stacy’s brother – hmm, a theme?). 

Keach presides over a Los Angeles traffic school classroom of goofballs, whove all had their licenses revoked, led by John Murray’s (will just call him John from now on) wisecracking character, whose every single utterance, facial expression, and display of physical energy summons the spirit of his brother, Bill.

I can imagine Director Israel saying “That last take was great, John, but can you really Bill it up on the next one?”

Many scenes feel like slight re-writes of scenes from MEATBALLS, STRIPES, and GHOSTBUSTERS, which came out the previous year, most likely when MOVING VIOLATIONS was in production. John’s co-opting of his brothers’ showbiz speak, his smarmy charm, and penchant for mock inspirational speeches is shameless, but what’s funny (even if the film largely isn’t) is that often his shtick works. John does look and sound a lot like Bill, and when he says such lines like “You guys are nutty!” one can almost buy the conceit. Almost.

MOVING VIOLATIONS, which also featured Jennifer Tilly, Sally Kellerman, Fred Willard, Wendi Jo Sperber, and a cameo by Clara Peller (at the height of “Where’s the Beef” mania!), unsurprisingly flopped, and after a brief run on cable (that’s where I first saw it) disappeared and was never mentioned again until this blog post. Okay, that’s not true - I’m sure Bill brings it up to needle his brother at family gatherings.

John never headlined a movie again. He has a fair amount of credits on his IMDb page, but they are mostly small parts with no character names – for example, he appears in ELF as “Man in Elevator” (he doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page!) 

His first role after MOVING VIOLATIONS was in SCROOGED, which, in a primo case of typecasting, he played his brother Bill’s brother (John also had a miniscule part in CADDYSHACK, so it wasn’t the first time his brother threw him a bone).

Putting aside all this brotherly love, the icing on the cake that is MOVING VIOLATIONS is that it features the big screen debut of Don Cheadle, credited as “Juicy Burgers Worker.”

Or maybe that was his brother.

BTW: MOVING VIOLATIONS isnt available streaming (that I could find anyway), but the whole movie is on YouTube for free. Youre welcome.

More later...

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