Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Sam's Choices: Funny man Billy Crystal's range of roles

There is no one funnier than Billy Crystal. He will always be my favorite Oscars host, I look forward to his new movies and he is forever enjoyable in all of his appearances. Someone with the kind of comedic talent Crystal has is rare, and should be celebrated, and so in honor of "Monsters University" I spent some time this week contemplating the best of his movies.

According to Crystal's bio on IMDB, he started doing standup at 16 years old, but dreamed of playing professional baseball. His first role was as TV's first openly gay character on the show "Soap," which kicked his career into full gear, allowing him to eventually get his own comedy show and appear in many other shows and movies. I am so glad he didn't follow through on his dream of being a baseball player, because otherwise some of the funniest movies I have seen wouldn't be nearly as good as they are.

Billy Crystal has been in a lot of movies I love, so I had to put some serious thought into picking my favorites. I was able to select my first four very easily, but the fifth film was back and forth between "City Slickers" and "Parental Guidance" because I liked both of them. "City Slickers" represents a younger Crystal and is a classic film from the actor, while "Parental Guidance" is a newer one, but is just as good as his older works.

'When Harry Met Sally' 1989

This is the classic romantic tale that every woman has seen. To be someone that women idolize, you would think Crystal was George Clooney or Brad Pitt, but no, just like in real life, the hot guy did not steal the heart of every woman out there. It was the funny, nice guy who won over in the end. This is really a lesson for all men and women everywhere to take with them forever.

Besides having that certain je ne sais quoi about him, Crystal uses his sense of humor and sensitivity to portray one of the most likeable characters ever to star in a romantic comedy. Meg Ryan and Crystal play friends who are afraid anything more would ruin their long-term friendship. The love story explores one of the most prominent questions facing people everywhere: Can a man and a woman really be friends? This is one of Crystal's most recognized and noted performances and for good reason; there is nothing that tops this classic romantic comedy.


'America's Sweethearts' 2001

I first watched this movie with my sister, and didn't realize that Crystal was in it, because I saw John Cusack was starring in it and was sold. But once I was into the film, Crystal stole the show. I remember some parts with other actors, but the funniest parts and the best lines are all by Crystal.

I think the most awkward yet funny part is when a dog tries to lick Crystal's crotch and he won't stop, so as the scene fades you hear him say "a little to the left." This scene is ridiculous, but Crystal's timing and execution are perfect and make it funny instead of weird.

Crystal's character in this film is working to make two actors come back together for a final press junket. While he is fighting to keep the press happy, he is also struggling to keep his job, so when the entire thing is doomed from the start, you know there is going to be some great desperation. And Crystal delivers on all counts. This movie was less popular when it came out, and most people I know have not seen it, until I make them watch with me. So if you haven't seen it, I suggest turning on FX Movie Channel and checking it out when they play it.

'Monsters, Inc.' 2001

The angry, yet loveable Mike Wazowski is definitely worth noting when talking about Crystal's best films. When "Monsters, Inc." came out originally I remember seeing it with my entire family after whatever holiday it came out around. Everyone loved it, which is a big accomplishment for a movie to begin with. I think we all liked it so much, in part, because of Crystal's role. Even as a one-eyed, green monster with scare-envy you can feel and see Crystal's presence come through on the screen.

When the company changes from scaring to comedy, it was almost like Crystal was right there on screen, not this little monster, because the jokes were just goofy one-liners that wouldn't be funny unless he told them. Disney and Pixar made the choice of a lifetime by selecting Crystal as Wazowski; no one else could have done a better job.


'The Princess Bride' 1987

Crystal may not play a giant part in this movie, but I absolutely love him in this movie. The scene where Cary Elwes is only "mostly dead" is classic Crystal, and makes me laugh every time. I always wonder how much is actually scripted, versus what he just made up as he went along. The lines are so well-written, and whoever wrote them is clearly a genius.

Crystal's Miracle Max is a rambling, crazy old man who has been fired from his job producing magic for the king, by his "stinking sons" and he is as bitter as ever about it. There isn't much to say about his character, other than he is perfectly executed. The costume, the voice and the lines all come together to make a memorable character. Max is definitely the most underrated character of the film. I can't count the number of times I have seen this movie. To anyone who hasn't watched it yet I say: "Have fun storming the castle."

'Parental Guidance' 2012

I recently rented this movie on a whim. I figured it's Crystal and Bette Midler, what more can you ask for? Although, I was slightly skeptical and worried that they had blown all of the best parts in the commercials. After my roommate and I finished it, I turned off the DVD player and we both started talking about how great the movie was and how much our parents would love it.

Crystal and Midler spend most of the film making fun of the parenting style where the kid doesn't get punished, no one ever loses and sugar is forbidden. They play grandparents who come to watch their daughter's kids while she and her husband are away. The children are babied and Crystal won't put up with it, so of course he breaks all of the rules and gives them sugar and, to their initial horror, makes them play outside.

This is a great example of Crystal's new work, showing that this comedic genius still has it and brings it all to the table in every movie he is in. I think I would see any movie, as long as he has a role in it, just because you can expect great things from every film he is in. Although, Crystal doesn't just know how to do comedy, he can be serious, and shows that off in this film as well. You will not only finish this film with a smile on your face, but also with a couple tears in your eyes; it's just a really sweet story and so well done.