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Examining the Talent of Matthew Lillard Through the “Lillardathon” (Now Featuring Superlatives)

When you think of Matthew Lillard, which character immediately pops into your head? Stu Macher? Shaggy? If you’re a fan, then maybe Stevo? Probably not Tim LaFlour, Longaville, or Fishman, though. Since 1990, Lillard has been seen on both movie theater and TV screens portraying a wide variety of characters. Whether he’s the son of a murderous mom, helping a family escape a house full of ghosts, or taking place in multiple baseball themed antics, Lillard undoubtedly steals the show.

First and foremost: why Matthew Lillard? There has always been something about him that has resonated whenever his films were being shown. Lillard’s performances were never only one thing. Consistently mixing laughs with sincerity and even a dash of heartbreak or anger, he is multi faceted. Yes, this is the job description of being an actor, but few do it as seamlessly and naturally. Having seen this type of performance only in popular films where Lillard is cast begs the question, “What else can he do on screen? What other roles has he tackled?” With certain actors, their best works are not always the most popular ones, and to be honest we had not heard of a lot of his other works. Discovering Lillard’s most notable performances—knowing what he brings to the table acting wise—became a mission.

On January 2, 2021, the marathon began. The first film on the docket was Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College, which was more or less Gremlins injected with toilet humorWas it a masterpiece? Not even close. Did he have even one line? No such luck. Did they dress him up like a nerd with suspenders? You bet! Needing a name for the binge watching feat, Lillardathon was born. With the bonus thought that maybe some of the Awards Radar fans would find this feat amusing, tweets with hot takes from each film began as well, ending with the hashtag #Lillardathon.

Upon waking up the next day, the actor himself responded with, “For the love of GOD. STOP NOW! 2020 was torture enough!” It seemed like an acceptable response for Ghoulies to be honest. Even after a 32 year long acting career in which he has made people of all ages laugh, cry, and fall in love with him, he cracks jokes about his career any chance he gets.

His warning went ignored, luckily. Things rapidly turned around with Serial Mom being the next picture on the list. The John Waters cult classic prominently features Lillard as the son of Kathleen Turner as she juggles being a murderer with being a housewife. This is Lillard’s first opportunity to flaunt his talents and prove himself as an actor, and he doesn’t let it pass him by. Whether he’s delivering classic teenage boy lines that spur on laughter or being obsessed with the idea that his mom is a famous killer, Lillard only adds to the absurd enjoyment that this film provides.

Further into the deep dive, along came the 2011 Alexander Payne drama The Descendants, where the comedic actor throws his hat into the ring as a dramatic actor. Much of the film is alluding to Lillard’s character and building suspense for when he is finally seen, only for him to steal the screen when he finally arrives. Channeling Brian Speer—a man cheating on his wife who finds out his mistress has died—sparse laughs are had when watching the serious and stern atmosphere he brings to the movie. George Clooney and Lillard work together beautifully, bringing out each others powerhouse acting styles. The oblivious nature of Judy Greer’s performance as Lillard’s wife only adds to the haunting darkness that he fully leans into. Overall, Lillard takes up a small crevice of the film and its total storyline, but that doesn’t mean that audiences won’t be thinking about his character long after his role is complete.

When it came to Lillard’s directorial debut, Fat Kid Rules the World, an unknown talent of his was uncoveredWhile his IMDb states that he is the guidance counselor in this one, Lillard takes up no screen time. At his own admission, he cut himself out of the film as it didn’t feel like it fit. Instead, he directs Jacob Wysocki and Matt O’Leary beautifully. O’Leary even resembles a young Lillard at many moments with his eclectic character, which is a treat. The storyline will move anyone to tears, and the shooting style is unique and enticing. When watching Lillard light up screens as a lighthearted character like Shaggy, the idea of him having a darker side doesn’t spring to mind. However, it can be argued that the most memorable moments in this picture are the shockingly dark ones that embrace the dark comedy genre. From the very first scene, a new side of him emerges through his directing style. It is evident that Lillard has a very serious career as a director ahead of him based on this picture. The fun of it will be waiting to see what he directs next.

As is true with all things, sometimes roles simply don’t land or make any impact. This applies to  Deep Dark Canyon, the 2012 thriller from Abe Levy and Silver Tree. Lillard has a small role in this one, but a role that should in theory mean something, playing the brother of a missing murdered man. Very few minutes are dedicated to Lillard and his character’s emotional journey, and that seems to be the first issue. Beyond that, it feels like Lillard doesn’t give his usual emotive performance, raising the question of if directorial decisions are to blame. Instead, the actor who typically oozes a wide range of emotions is monotone and hard to read. This film is the standout in terms of Lillard performances that fall flat, and it is a shame that the actor wasn’t given a well developed action thriller to take part in.

While Lillard is typecast as the villain more often than not, such as in The Curve or Scream, he’s also been offered wholesome roles. A prime example of this is Tim LaFlour in Senseless, the Canadian roommate to Marlon Wayans who is a friend anyone would be lucky to have. Lillard happily plays the doofus too, such as fame hungry reality star Brock Hudson in She’s All That. Sometimes, Lillard is even a resentful adult attempting to hunt down his unknown father alongside Patrick Stewart in Match. And of course one can’t discredit when Lillard dances or sings, like in Love’s Labour’s Lost or even at the very end of Dish Dogs. Regardless of his role or station in the movie as the hero or the villain, he toes the line between genres and characters time and time again with very few missteps. Where low points are found, it feels like writing is at fault, with Lillard making the most out of a weak script or weak plot point and helping even the flimsiest film be entertaining.

The final film in the Lillardathon endeavor was He’s All That. Any fans of She’s All That will enjoy this one enough, but will also be aware that it does not hold a candle to the 1999 classic. Rachael Leigh Cook has a prominent role, but Lillard is mainly heard and not seen. Furthermore, neither talent reprises their roles from the original film, but instead tackle new characters, which feels like a low hanging fruit that would have made this one wholly more entertaining. However, when Lillard is finally seen on screen, he does have a moment where he dances in a way that will give fans of the original flick deja vu. Mirroring his iconic Brock Hudson with dance moves, it feels as if Lillard carries the majority of the joyful moments in the film. It also feels like Lillard takes a back seat in this one, which makes sense considering the movie and its plot, but is still disappointing.

Ultimately, Lillardathon was full of highs and lows, as any career is. The biggest surprise was how many titles were unknown before this experiment, and how many of them were loved more than our usual favorites. An added feat came with how difficult it was to hunt down some of the movies he’s credited for. It became apparent that the more difficult a movie was to find, the more unique and interesting it was, for better or for worse. Some of these finds included Spanish Judges, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Spooner. Turning away from streaming and instead buying used DVD’s off of eBay or purchasing digital copies became the way the journey of watching his films was continued. Quickly, the order in which the films were viewed depended heavily on availability or shipping, so bouncing around decades was a norm. Yet some were still impossible to find, whether it was a TV movie that cannot be purchased, or a feature that never received its hype, which was a hard pill to swallow.

So what happens when you watch an actor’s filmography from start to finish? You obviously watch them grow and transform, but with Lillard one also watches him tackle more complex roles throughout the years. With that comes many experiments with accents, hair styles (so many hair styles), acting styles, and different film genres. Whether on screen for 10 or 90 minutes, he delivers a dynamic performance time and time again. This holds true even from Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go To College, where he doesn’t have a single line but speaks volumes through body language and facial expressions. This is a testament to a person who is doing exactly what they should be doing with their career. Are some movies better than others? Of course. Have some experiments gone awry? He’s only human (nudge nudge, A Dungeon Siege Tale). Nonetheless, as an actor he has remained solid, unwavering, and enjoyable. After a total of 46 movies, He was still not only enjoyable to watch, but proved to be a chameleon of an actor. Whether it’s a comedy full of sexual innuendos, or a drama where he is cheating on his wife, every role is satisfying when it comes to his performances.

What started out as a quirky way to see friends mid-week and party while watching beloved films became a total appreciation of Matthew Lillard as an actor. It wasn’t only about honoring one of our favorite actors, but it was about coming back to your best friends and comforting movies while simultaneously discovering new ones. Charcuterie boards, wine, different dips, and baked goods (even Scooby Doo cookies) all made appearances and became a ritual. Catching up while doing something that spurs joy became very important to each of us. Life is stressful, and if you can find one thing that helps you relax after a hard day, make the most of it. The best part? As long as he continues acting, there will always be Lillardathon.

It cannot be recommended enough to do the same thing with your favorite actors. That being said, this was a very fun one with a diverse filmography. Stay tuned for the Lillardathon superlatives, coming next, in which I give out awards to a small sample of Lillard’s many characters and relive the amazing time. Please chime in and comment either your favorite Matthew Lillard movie, or which actor you’re going to binge watch with your friends.

Superlatives

After one year of watching 46 movies with 45 very different characters, winners have been chosen for all 11 categories. Which Matthew Lillard performances will take home awards? Which films of his are the champions? Read below to find out:

Life of the Party

Winner: Brock Hudson, She’s All That

Runner Up: Longaville, Love’s Labour’s Lost

The reality star Brock Hudson clinched this award with his signature dance moves and spacey partier attitude. However, his tattoo of himself and his iconic tight metallic pants didn’t hurt either. The ultimate party boy had to win this superlative, no doubt about it. As for the runner up, jaunty singing and dancing character Longaville deserves recognition. Despite being a work of Shakespeare, Lillard brings the fun with his tender performance that showcases his talents in choreography and singing. And truth be told, I’m sure we’d all love to dance with Matthew Lillard, even if its more classical than what Brock brings to the table.

All’s Well That Ends Well: Most Memorable Ending

Winner: Finder’s Fee

Runner Up: Messages Deleted

Who doesn’t love a twist ending? Finder’s Fee packs a punch with their ending that audiences will not see coming. You’ll be unsure of who to trust and what to believe up until the last frame. It’s not a favorite Lillard performance, but definitely a favorite storyline, chock full of other noticeable actors. Messages Deleted earned the runner up spot with its bold, gasp inspiring shots and surprise ending. Another thrilling mystery—but with more gore—it will keep you guessing.

Cutest Couple

Winner: Rusty Crockett & Jo, All’s Faire in Love

Runner Up: Jason & Molly, Dish Dogs

Matthew’s charm shines through as the handsome Renaissance Faire worker that ultimately wins the girl over. Audiences will swoon over Lillard’s admiration for Jo and his smooth delivery. The couples storyline is one of the most rewarding aspects of this film, outshining the lead characters and their romance, as well as the more goofy elements of the comedy. Jason and Molly from Dish Dogs are a close second here. The end of the film secures their spot as runner up, complete with Lillard serenading his character’s love, which should not be missed.

Ladies Man

Winner: Roger Sperling, The Pool Boys

Runner Up: Sal, What Love Is

In the same vein as American Pie, The Pool Boys features topless women and single bachelors heavily. Lillard is the lead bachelor and slacker pool cleaner who earned this superlative. None of Lillard’s other characters truly match this energy, but runner up Sal is a character in a movie all about the differences between men and women. Sal shares some misogynistic wisdom, but is never really seen with a woman, which earns him this runner up spot, and not the winning title.

Creepiest Villain

Winner: Tim, The Curve

Runner Up: Doug Van Housen, Animal Room

The 90’s was the time for Lillard and his villain era. All of his best works in terms of being the antihero took place in the thick of the 90’s, with The Curve being from 1998. Lillard’s character Tim shows his sadistic undertones and things escalate very quickly, making this character a clear winner for this category. Pure hatred arises from watching Tim ensue havoc. Similarly, dark and twisted Doug from Animal Room claims runner up, because the film itself doesn’t match up to The Curve in terms of quality.

Best Bromance

Winner: Jerry, Dan, & Tom, Without A Paddle

Runner Up: Morgan & Jason, Dish Dogs

The triad of friendship between Jerry, Dan, and Tom takes the cake for this category. Yes, slapstick hijinks take the stage, but the foundation of that is the close bond these three characters share during a reunion after losing their fourth member. The chemistry between Lillard, Seth Green, and Dax Shepard translates well on screen, and it truly seems like they had the best time while making this film. Dish Dogs claims another runner up spot for the bromance between Morgan and Jason. Their adventures are showcased in this film and Lillard and Sean Astin have great chemistry on screen. However, their activities don’t quite match up to our winners.

Home Run Baseball Flick

Winner: Home Run Showdown

Runner Up: Summer Catch

Baseball needed its own category, as Lillard stars in multiple baseball themed movies. It’s almost as if baseball is its own character in the actor’s filmography. The winner encompasses Lillard’s passion for working with young talent, a romance, and a young actress dressed in multiple mascot costumes. The warm hearted feeling this one leaves viewers with is what lead to its win. On the other side of the coin, runner up Summer Catch is a young adult baseball comedy where Lillard stars alongside repeat co-star Freddie Prinze Jr. and Brittany Murphy. It has laughs, but the plot exhibits weak areas that prevent it from winning first place here.

Class Clown

Winner: Stu Macher, Scream

Runner Up: Cereal, Hackers

“Liver alone!” Pretty much summarizes why Stu won this superlative. Of course, he has other lines that are comedic gold, and he truly seems to be the class clown. His goofy yet murderous demeanor earned this title. Yes, he’s also a murdering sidekick, but when seen at school he’s simply a goofball. Runner up Cereal also has famous goofy lines paired with a crazy appearance, yet holds a more intense role, which prevents him from winning him the official class clown title.

Best Performance: Supporting Role

Winner: Brian Speer, the Descendants

Runner Up: Mike Davis, Match

Not enough can be said about Lillard’s supporting role in this film. While he plays a small part, he completely steals the screen. Audiences will find themselves battling with their desire to not hate Brian Speer because Lillard conjures up humanity in a horrible situation. Similarly, in runner up Match, Lillard takes on a serious role while being seriously scary and tense. His character’s motives are uncovered, but at first you have no idea what to make of him. Lillard is seen in a completely different light here, just as he is in the Descendants.

Best Performance: Leading Role

Winner: Stevo, SLC Punk!

Runner Up: Spooner

It had to be Stevo. It always was Stevo, and the scene in which Lillard breaks down near the ending seals the deal. The performance, which has a Holden Caulfield kind of aura to it, will make you laugh, roll your eyes, and cry. Lillard is engaged and connected to Stevo the entire time, and doesn’t miss a beat, enticing viewers to hear what the punk rock lover has to say. In runner up Spooner, lead Lillard is a unique, loving character. It’s wonderful to not only see Lillard as the hero of the story, but also in a leading, title role. At times his storyline makes you cringe, and his story isn’t as powerful as Stevo’s, but Spooner remains a solid second place.

Best Film

Winner: Serial Mom

Runner Up: Fat Kid Rules the World

Serial Mom has it all. A first major role for Lillard, quirky comedy that only John Waters can master, murder, and a storyline that holds attention throughout. It is a cult classic in its own right, and fans of Lillard’s love it for his performance and many berets. From the very first shot, you’ll be excited to watch this film, and you’ll enjoy it through the closing credits. Lillard’s fantastic directorial debut earns the runner up spot. So many elements of Fat Kid Rules the World make it an instant hit despite Lillard not being seen on screen. The two young actors who the film focuses on make up for it with impressive performances that shouldn’t be missed.

Lillardathon King

Winner: Stevo, SLC Punk!

Runner Up: Shaggy, Scooby Doo

SLC Punk! Is impossible to ignore. The film stands out in Lillard’s filmography in a magnificent way. It doesn’t matter your music preferences, or your disdain of wily teenagers, all will love the film and feel connected to Stevo. The multi faceted performance from Lillard was an easy choice for Lillardathon King, namely closer to the end of the film. Second place had to go to Shaggy from the live action Scooby Doo. Lillard perfectly became Shaggy Rogers in appearance, sound, and mannerisms. Shaggy brings comedic relief to the film—as well as adult jokes that kids won’t pick up on—and while his performance isn’t touching like Stevo’s, it makes Shaggy a king in his own right.

That’s all, folks! Thank you all so much for following me on the Lillardathon journey. Please let me know which superlatives you would award to which Matthew Lillard performances or films in the comments.

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matthew lillard
matthew lillard
5 months ago

You are a brave soul and shall be canonized upon death. God will look kindly upon you for the work you have done here. Mad love. I’m humbled. I only wish there was more to watch. M. Lillard

Joey Magidson
Admin
5 months ago

Kendall has clearly done something for the ages!

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Written by Kendall Tinston

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