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Moriarty looks at the Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy starring film, BOFINGER

Well, Moriarty continues his quest to see ALL of the summer films before we do (that evil SOB) and he's been doing a hell of a job... Wouldn't you say? Here, he's looking at the Frank Oz directed film, BOFINGER... which has has an interesting history here on the site. Going all the way back to Quint's review... Ages ago... through the test screening process which began not sounding that good, but then slowly but surely began curving on up to Moriarty's review here. I love films like this because they show the process when it works, and that is always a positive... ya know? Well, without further ado, I turn you on over to the dear Professor...

Hey, Head Geek...

"Moriarty" here.

I was just sitting in the heart of the Moriarty Labs in front of my giant information board in which I monitor 200 plus international TV channels, a wide variety of radio bands, and my own private network of video cameras around the world. Of course, there's an Internet screen that's part of the setup, and I happened to be looking at the VARIETY headlines from this week when I noticed that Universal moved BOFINGER.

My first reaction was, "What, are they crazy? It's such a strong movie. Great comic chemistry, smart scripting... what are they doing?" Then I read further into the article and I realized they were trying to find a weekend where BOFINGER wasn't going to get beaten to death. Originally they were set to open the film only a week before another strong Universal comedy, MYSTERY MEN. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and they've now got it opening on August 27 opposite STIGMATA and THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE.

I think Universal can start breathing easy now. They've got a winner on their hands. I originally read the script BOFINGER'S BIG THING last year, and I was underwhelmed. I thought it was jokey, dull, and one-note. I also didn't believe it for a second. When I heard the casting of Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, I was curious what sort of sparks they might generate together, but I couldn't picture Eddie in the film at all. Since Steve wrote it, his character was in his voice perfectly, but I just couldn't picture Murphy delivering these lines, playing this character.

Boy, was I wrong. Even though LIFE was far from being a perfect film, it had some moments that hinted at a mature Murphy just waiting to show off some chops. There was an energy to his work in that film that hasn't been there for years. I thought we might be on the verge of seeing a renewed Eddie, someone who's back in touch with their gift. BOFINGER delivers on that possibility in a big way. Kit Ramsey, one of two characters Eddie plays, is everything we're afraid movie stars might be. He's insecure to the point of paralysis, desperate for any sort of affirmation, and constantly surrounded by his entourage that indulges his worst instincts. There was a point back during the HARLEM NIGHTS - BOOMERANG - VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN where I suspected Eddie had given up and become this cartoon, this indulgent pratt. I mean, look at him in ANOTHER 48 HRS. He's Fat Elvis. Eddie's head weighs more than the entire 19 year old kid we all first fell in love with on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. His timing was gone. He was as Vegas as a celebrity can be. And now... just like that... he's proven that none of those years matter. When Eddie Murphy puts his mind to it, he is still one of the most facile comic minds in film today, and there is a new confidence and maturity to the way he commands a screen that is fascinating. Besides, no one who can play this character with this savage a wit could have ever fully believed their own hype. Murphy's in on the joke here, and he plays the hell out of it.

He also plays another character in the film, and I'm surprised that so much of the advertising seems to focus on this other character. Not that I didn't enjoy the work. I did. In fact, it's this other character that the audience will love. Kit Ramsey is a freak. Jett Ramsey, who just happens to be Kit's brother, is warm, approachable, and will instantly be embraced as one of Murphy's most beloved comic creations. This brother is decent the same way Paul Metzler is in the current ELECTION -- there's a unfocused purity of spirit to the characters, a simple decency that makes them wide open, that draws an audience in. Murphy's work in the film is so good as both characters that you will stop thinking about them being the same actor. The characters are convincing and real, and when we finally see them together, we accept them as brothers, as real and seperate people. That's the mark of great work.

Steve Martin... ah, what can I say about Steve Martin?

I have grown up in awe of the comic mind of this man. His stand-up comedy albums from the '70s are still among the finest of the genre (anyone who doesn't know what "Mambo rhino dogface in the banana patch" means is missing out on some of life's sweetest pleasures), his early films with Carl Reiner are nothing short of comic bliss (THE JERK, DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID, THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, ALL OF ME -- not a weak spot among them), and his work as a writer (CRUEL SHOES, PURE DRIVEL, ROXANNE, LA STORY, PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE) is piercing, perceptive, and surreal. Sure, he makes a lot of crap. I would never dare defend the likes of FATHER OF THE BRIDE II or THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS. Still, when it comes to solid, smart laughter, he's always been a standard for me. That's why I was so relieved when Steve was simply hilarious from start to finish in this film. It's a performance of sublime silliness, all bullshit artist bravado mixed with human frailty, and it will come as a delight to anyone who appreciates the art of what Martin does best. Just the other day, at a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER viewing party gone bust (DAMN YOU, WB!!!!), our host threw on Martin's classic short film THE ABSENT-MINDED WAITER. Martin hasn't lost one bit of the comic edge he had in that film, and seeing it made me realize just how special that is. Very few of our prized film clowns stay this funny for this long. On those occasions Martin gets it right, I think the public should be greedy for it, bask in it.

I could go on about the skilled contributions of Frank Oz as director, who manages to make an impossible concept somehow seem believable. I could rant and rave about how my future wife Heather Graham gives another canny comic performance here that, combined with her sexy and playful work in AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME, should catapult her to the top of any casting list in town. I could say that there's very able work by every member of the film's large ensemble, including Jamie Kennedy, Christine Baranski, and Terrence Stamp. What?!?! Zod is funny?!?! Well, as the head of a pseudo-cultish religion called MindHead, yes... General Zod is actually funny.

I'm not going to do any of that, though. Instead, I'm just going to conclude my piece by saying that comedy fans should be in heaven by August 27 when this film finally hits screens. There is a lot of great laughter headed to theater screens between now and then. BIG DADDY, AUSTIN POWERS, AMERICAN PIE, MYSTERY MEN, and this film all deliver on their premises, then actually go above and beyond. Every one of the films features gifted performers working at their peak, and every one offers memorable sights and lines. I have enjoyed my first half of the year seeing all these films so I could share my impressions with you, AICN readers. Now you get to start enjoying the films themselves.

Lucky, lucky you.

Until next time...

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 27, 1999, 12:53 p.m. CST

    Murphy's the man...

    by marvelluis

    Is it just me, or is Eddie Murphy getting closer and closer to an "Oscar"? I just hope he doesn't change his name to "Edward Murphy" in an attempt to be "SERIOUS".

  • May 27, 1999, 12:54 p.m. CST

    1st

    by cyboman

    WOO HOOOO!!!! I'M FIRST!!!

  • May 27, 1999, 12:54 p.m. CST

    I'M FIRST!!!!!!!!!

    by JLY

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. This movie looks great. In fact, so does Stigmata. Darn, what should I see that weekend?? Bowfinger's trailer made me laugh, but the trailer for Stigmata made me squirm in my seat (Bleedin statues and all). Has anyone seen Stigmata (or remember a review posted here?). Help me please!

  • May 27, 1999, 12:59 p.m. CST

    Holy Man Sucked

    by ClemsonFn

    Saw it last night.....this movie better be good.

  • May 27, 1999, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Caution!

    by Mike D

    This film has the premise and all the ingredients to be totally off-the-wall hysterical. However, Oz's BOWFINGER better follow in the footsteps of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOWNDRELS and WHAT ABOUT BOB?, rather than those of IN&OUT, aka "one of THE worst movies of all time" (no, I'm not exagerrating when I say that).

  • May 27, 1999, 1:09 p.m. CST

    I'M FIRST!!!! I'M FIRST!!!!

    by JaneDoe33

    Yeah, I know I'm not first. I just wanted to give the guys above a little shit. This movie looks damn good. The trailer was hilarious. "In and Out" sucked...sure. But let's give Yoda another chance, OK?

  • May 27, 1999, 1:17 p.m. CST

    no taste

    by lerner

    have you gone mad? i respect your reviews 8 out of 10 times, however this time you have gone crazy. i had the displeasure of seeing bowfinger and i am still reeling from the stupidity and lack of effort on the part of all involved to make a movie that is clever and original and FUNNY. the movie tanked on all levels and the fact that you call it a winner scares the shit out of me. this is the typical example of a big studio trying to reel in the dollars by making CRAP. see it again and then rethink your assbackwards position.

  • May 27, 1999, 1:20 p.m. CST

    Eddie deserved an Oscar for the Nutty Professor..think about it

    by spike lee

    he played every member of the Clump family except the little boy. The mother and father should of both got nominations for best supporting actor and actress. I think the New York Critics did give Eddie the best actor award for the Nutty Professor. Eddie is getting up there in age, and it would not hurt for him to take a supporting role in a drama or two, something like Robin William's role in Good Will Hunting. I just hope Eddie tries to bring the Richard Pryor bio to the screen.

  • May 27, 1999, 2:20 p.m. CST

    Steve Martin, Yay, Eddie Murphy, Yawn

    by BigSis

    Steve Martin is a comic genius who has not been well-cast in YEARS. I'm looking forward to seeing him in a role that makes me laugh out loud again. But I've given up on Eddie. Blegh! Every time he is on camera, it's like he has a thought balloon over his head: "Look at me! Aren't I funny? Aren't I CUTTING EDGE?" You were, once...

  • May 27, 1999, 2:32 p.m. CST

    Boomerang is SO UNDERATED

    by Sefster

    I am sorry, but I need to defend Boomerang. It is still one of my favorite movies by Eddie where he showed maturity and passive comedic brilliance. With a host of perfect supporting characters (STRANGe!) and a interesting sotryline, I wish this movie was more embraced! Gerard, look, your mom brought us a whooole troth of chitlins.

  • I hope that Martin is just as funny here as he was in that movie, I think that Martin would be a good dramatic actor too along with Eddie. I loved Boomerang too, man Halle Berrys HOT!

  • May 27, 1999, 3:45 p.m. CST

    Steve Martin

    by quiscustodiet

    I had the pleaseure of attending a screenwriters workshop in NY with Steve Martin as one of the speakers and co-ordinators. The man is pure genius, his acting is brilliant (see The Spanish Prisoner or All of Me if you don't think so), his plays and screenwriting work on so many different levels at once (LA Story, other than the last 15 minutes, is beautiful absurdist satire), and he is truly a nice guy. I hope this is huge for him and for Eddie Murphy (Holy Man sucked so bad...yechhhh). Great review again, Moriarty!

  • May 27, 1999, 4:27 p.m. CST

    Steve Martin

    by W. Leach

    Steve Martin is one of the true comedic geniusus today. I'm a fan of his work, particularly his stand-up (LET'S GET SMALL and A WILD AND CRAZY GUY are the funniest comedy albums I've ever heard). His bizarre, surreal plays (PICASSO AT THE LAPIN AGILE, WASP, and THE ZIG-ZAG WOMAN among them), are just a few examples of what makes live theatre wonderful. And of course, there's the movie work: THE JERK, DEAD MEN DON'T WEAR PLAID, THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS, ALL OF ME, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE THREE AMIGOS, ROXANNE, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, L.A. STORY, SGT. BILKO, and THE SPANISH PRISONER are, I think, among his best performances. I left out one movie on that list, because it is very underrated and very unusual. It contains a brilliant, comedic, touching, and tragic performance by Steve Martin. It's called PENNIES FROM HEAVEN (1981), and it was directed by Herbert Ross. The movie takes place in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. Martin plays a sheet-music salesman who gets through his bleak existance by fantasising a bright, cheery world, where popular music of the day is lyp-synched by the people around him. This movie is based on the Dennis Potter miniseries from the late 1970s, and features Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken, who has a great tap-dancing number. The bright, optimistic music contrasts brilliantly with the darkness of real life in this movie (Martin's second starring role), and, not surprisingly, did horrible business at the box office.

  • May 27, 1999, 4:59 p.m. CST

    Fuck the Game if it ain't sayin' nothin'

    by That 70's Guy

    Martin and Murphy need a hit more than pandas need to shag. Not only that. They DESERVE it.

  • May 27, 1999, 6:25 p.m. CST

    Astronaut's Wife-No competition!

    by Uncapie

    That's a smart move to put Bowfinger up against Astronaut's Wife. That piece of garbage has been in the can for over a year and a half!

  • May 27, 1999, 6:29 p.m. CST

    JLY and cyboman. Ha you guys were..

    by Doctor Zaz

    NOT FIRST. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As for me. I'm not first. And I don't give a shit. And Bowfinger looks awesome!

  • May 27, 1999, 9:46 p.m. CST

    Eddie and the Oscars

    by SegueZagnut

    I've seen the film also, and had I written a review it would have been almost the exact same thing as Moriarty's. I loved it. I think Eddie is as important to the comedic success of this film as Kevin Kline was in Fish Called Wanda. It is certainly too early to really suggest Oscar but don't forget this performance next Feb. Consider This... SZ

  • May 27, 1999, 11:33 p.m. CST

    Stevie boy

    by cereal4me

    I have yet to see Steve in anything where he was truly horrid. My personal favorite is My Blue Heaven, not the greatest of all time, but I have a good time watching it. By the way, In & Out wasn't a bad film. Steve was originally in line first for Kline's part. He handed it off to Kline because he was busy at the time. I could deffinitely see Steve in that part. but it seems most of us here want Steve-a-rino to have another big hit. In the age where Sandlerish culture reigns supreme, it's high time a comedic God like Steve gets his days in the sun back again. But even if those days don't come back, I'll always be one of the man's biggest fans and supporters. Same goes for Bill Murray.

  • May 28, 1999, 9:22 a.m. CST

    WOW-- what a shocker!!

    by mckracken

    Moriarty, I can't believe your actually waiting for BIG DADDY and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. I HATE Adam Sandler (the previews do make the film look funny but isn't that the point of the trailer?) Austin Powers, well lets just say that I gave this stupid rental the 30 minute test and it FAILED (horribly) I was so revolted by this crap that I have NEVER even WANTED to finish the video much less see the sequel. As for "The-Out-of-Towners" lets talk about that "crap". I took my MOTHER to see this "CRAP" and we BOTH enjoyed it (she was also the deciding factor to pull the plug on that crappy Austin Powers rental!!) Now I understand that Out-of-Towners is actually a remake and that I haven't seen the original, so that might be why you hated it and I liked it but still...I'll see Bowfinger (maybe not in the theater but I'll see it eventually) and we'll see...I'm still trying to see "The Mummy" and "Black Mask" and "Notting Hill" opens tonight too. -McK

  • May 29, 1999, 3:26 a.m. CST

    Response For McKracken

    by Moriarty

    Hey... I'm not waiting for the films I mentioned... I've seen them. Comedy is always more subjective than drama, I find, so I don't expect you to agree with me as to everything I find funny. I have enjoyed all the films I mentioned, though, and thought they all showcased their respective stars well. See the ones that interest you, and you'll have a good time. "Moriarty" out.

  • July 27, 2006, 7:20 p.m. CST

    Is McKracken's first name Ass?

    by Wolfpack

  • Feb. 23, 2010, 11 a.m. CST

    Hmmm

    by TheUmpireStrokesBach

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  • Feb. 23, 2010, 11:11 a.m. CST

    by TheUmpireStrokesBach

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