Fact Checking Bill Murray: A Short, Comic Film from Sundance 2008

Bill Murray, surely both America’s most and least approachable movie star, seems for almost everything yet unavailable for almost anything. Rarely granting interviews, limiting himself (mostly) to roles he actually cares about, and famously working without an agent, he tends to pop up in places you wouldn’t expect him to. Well, aside from Wes Anderson films, where he’s remained a consistent presence since 1998’s Rushmore — but remember how startling it felt to see the star of Groundhog Day turn up in such a relatively small-scale, low-concept, genreless production in the first place? More recently, his extended cameo in Ruben Fleischer’s Zombieland has become, in the fullness of time, that picture’s very raison d’être. Not long before that, he appeared in a selection at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival: it wasn’t the latest feature from a Wes Anderson or a Sofia Coppola or a Jim Jarmusch, and in fact not a feature at all, but Peter Karinen and Brian Sacca’s short FCU: Fact Checkers Unit.

Karinen and Sacca star as two lowly fact-checkers at Dictum, a publication solidly in the tradition the United Kingdom calls “lads’ mags.” (“SEX WORK OUTS,” insists one cover blurb.) Faced with a draft of an article on celebrity sleeping tips that recommends drinking a glass of warm milk before bed, “like Bill Murray,” the fellows kneel before a shrine to Alex Trebek — their personal god of facts — don their Fact Checkers Unit windbreakers, and go looking for Murray’s house. Sensing their stumbling presence, Murray finds our heroes huddled in the bathtub almost immediately after they’ve broken in. True to his reputation, Murray has not been easy to find, but true to his public persona, he proves placidly willing and able to hang out when found. After an evening of M*A*S*H, martinis, checkers, and lounge singing, the FCU boys discover the truth about Bill Murray and milk. I won’t, er, spoil it.

I can’t help but admire this casting coup; Karinen and Sacca must have gone through just as much hassle as the FCU did to find Bill Murray. (That, or they happened to know him through some coincidental connection none of us could ever replicate.) Even more impressive, in its way, is how they seemingly crafted the structure of FCU: Fact Checkers Unit to accommodate whichever hard-to-come-by celebrity they could have managed to come by. Perhaps a bigger fan than I knows of some deep, long-established connections between Bill Murray, lad’s mags, M*A*S*H, and warm milk, but nothing stops me from imagining the Kevin Spacey version. In fact, I’d like to see the Kevin Spacey version. Insert a new celebrity each week while holding all else equal, and the concept could become an avant-garde web series.

You can find this film listed in our collection of Free Movies Online.

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

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Comments (3)
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  • Shelley says:

    I’d rather see a failed film by Wes Anderson than a “success” by any other director.

  • blake says:

    I just wasted 9 minutes of my life.

  • DS says:

    Dude. Mister Marshall, may I request you to *not* summarize a film? It not only belittles the viewer by assuming she doesn’t have brains to understand the obvious, it also spoils the fun of watching the story unfold. Just refraining from telling the climactic moment (when you’ve already told everything else) is not enough. Sincerely, a film lover.

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