Sunday, January 10, 2010


Comedies seem to have a short shelf life. They either need to have just enough dramatic moments to win the favor of mainstream critics, or be quotable enough drunk people can recite half of the lines in lieu of actually being funny themselves. (Old School being the ultimate example of this.)

So, I think every now and then I should bring up a comedy on this blog that you've probably already heard of, then promptly forgot about for no reason other than that some idiot hasn't been quoting it for the past decade. Today's entry: Bowfinger.

A few days ago, I watched this for the the first time in ages, and for a ten year old movie, it held up pretty well. The film follows director a hack director named Bobby Bowfinger (played by Steve Martin) as he tries to make an action movie starring the biggest actor in Hollywood, Kit Ramsey (played by Eddie Murphy) without his permission. On top of that, he starts out with only two actors and one crewman.

Director and screenwriters Frank Oz and Steve Martin don't just rely on the premise for one set of gags that they try to milk for an hour and a half. Instead they play it from all angles. Bowfinger keeps finding new ways to lie to his cast to explain Kit Ramsey isn't interacting with them unless the cameras are rolling. Kit, who is paranoid, thinks that aliens are stalking him, not realizing they're actors trying to improvise a sci-fi thriller around him. Heather Graham plays a girl from Ohio who tries to sleep her way through the cast and crew until she can figure out who can help her break into the movie business.

Of course, being an Eddie Murphy movie from the 90's, it was still during that era where he had that thing for playing multiple roles in the same movie. So, in addition to playing action star Kit Ramsey, he also plays a lookalike hired to play Kit when Bowfinger can't figure out how to get the real Kit into some of the scenes. While the multiple-role thing might have gotten a bit annoying in some of his other movies, it works in this movie because it makes sense plot-wise.

In both personas, he manages to steal the movie. As the real Kit Ramsey has great stretches of dialogue where he goes on paranoid rants, like one where he deems a script racist because the letter "K" appears in it a number of times that's divisible by three, which he interprets as meaning that "KKK" is subliminally encoded in the script over 400 times. As the Kit Ramsey impersonator, he's massively awkward, doing stuff like endlessly giggling when he has to do a sex scene.

I think this is also the film where both Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy peaked at. After this, Steve Martin either did family comedies, supporting roles or serious performances. I'm not sure anybody even remembers his serious roles, and he had a few alright movies among his family movies and supporting roles, but nothing as hilarious as this. As for Eddie Murphy, aside from his voice work as Donkey in the Shrek movies, the decade that followed was filled with tragically bad buddy movies and family movies that at most reached a level of "alright." Yes, he had that Oscar nominated performance in Dreamgirls, but this was his last comedic performance that would make you genuinely laugh out loud.

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