Sept 99: Bowfinger

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by Blair Smith
Written by: Steve Martin
Directed by: Frank Oz
Produced by: Brian Grazer
Dir. of Photography: Ueli Steiger
Editor: Richard Pearson
Cast: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Robert Downey Jr., Terrence Stamp

Do you remember the last time you were laughing out loud in an Eddie Murphy movie? Do you remember Eddie Murphy before Doctor Dolittle and Holy Man? Do you remember the biting humor and character changes from films like Raw and Trading Places? Well, you will receive a small reminder of how funny Eddie Murphy is in Bowfinger, his latest release from Universal Pictures also starring Steve Martin and Heather Graham.


In the beginning we are introduced to Bobby Bowfinger, played by Martin, an independent film maker down on his luck who comes across a script he thinks will put him back on top. Never mind his Accountant wrote this script, but remember that is the way Hollywood works. We are then introduced to Kit Ramsey, played by Murphy, who is a paranoid Hollywood Action Hero who has a lot of celebrity induced issues and feels the Hollywood industry is not giving him his due because he's black. (Imagine that!) Meanwhile, Bowfinger manages to get his script in front of a powerful studio exec (played by a clean and sober Robert Downey Jr.) and is told if he can get Kit Ramsey to be in the film, the project is a go. This scene sets up the premise for non-stop jabs at Hollywood, including the casting couch, the faithful low budget film crew and smug studio executives. The film even takes shots at a church that bears a strong resemblance to the Church of Scientology, a favorite of many Hollywood icons including John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Murphy also doubles as an aspiring actor who bears a striking resemblance to Kit Ramsey and who makes Steve Urkel look like Ricky Martin.


While the story is entertaining in a Blockbuster sort of way, the gems come from Murphy reaching back into what made him so funny in the 80's and pulling it out in subtle ways. The wild looks and the timing are all there along with the silliness and the feeling he is not taking himself as seriously as he has in recent films. The partnership between Murphy and Martin are never developed so don't let the posters and the trailers make you think this is a buddy film. This is not 48 Hours Part III, or Trading Places II. Murphy and Martin are doing what they did best in their stand up days, take the stage solo and run wild. Heather Graham, as a seemingly nieve but ambitious actress fresh off the turnip truck, shows she has a flair for comedy that extends beyond her straight man role in Austin Powers. Christine Baranski also stands out as Bowfinger's faithful method actress.


If you are like me, a die-hard Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy fan, then you will like this movie. Then again, if you are like me you probably like to throw on "The Bridge" by MC Shan and watch reruns of The Cosby Show when nobody is looking. However, if you are of the new school generation and are looking for hard belly laughs like American Pie, then you will appreciate this film better on HBO.


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