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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