Getting the legendary Robert De Niro (2001's "The Score") to star
opposite Eddie Murphy (2001's "Dr. Dolittle 2") in a big, star-driven
comedy would seem like a match made in heaven. Under the helm of director
Tom Dey (2000's "Shanghai Noon"), however, "Showtime" is almost appalling
in its sheer badness. That the screenplay was collaborated on by three
people (Keith Sharon, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar), and yet not
a single laugh or a successful bit of satire could be generated, just
goes to show what a doomed project this must have been from the start.
With their cable station in trouble, television producer Chase Renzi
(Rene Russo) devises a TV show premise that she believes can't fail:
a reality show that follows the day-by-day lives of two police officers
that have been partnered together. Her targets are LAPD veteran Mitch
Preston (Robert De Niro), who has just gotten into hot water with
his superiors over a botched drug bust, and Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy),
who is studying to become both an actor and a real-life detective.
While Trey jumps at the chance, Mitch is completely uninterested,
but forced into doing it to save himself from being fired. When the
show hits big, their worlds are predictably turned upside down.
"Showtime" fails to work on every level. As a satire of buddy cop
movies, it is neither witty nor smart about its targets. So poorly
conceived is the supposed satire that it ceases to even be satirical.
Likewise, director Tom Dey apparently forgot midway through that he
was even making a comedy, as a serious, almost incomprehensible thriller
subplot is introduced involving a crazed bad guy (Pedro Damian) with
a very big, extraordinarily powerful gun. The humor is lacking in
the second half, yes, but lessening the blow is the fact that nothing
had been even marginally amusing to begin with.
As a behind-the-scenes look at a reality show, the film is calamitous.
There is no insight into filmmaking, and no overt entertainment value
in the writing or the dreary performances. Scene after scene seems
to have been jumbled recklessly together, and without abandon. Tellingly,
the movie's scenes could be rearranged into any order and still make
about as much sense. For true intelligence and comedic value in reality
show moviemaking, one has to look no further than 2001's "Series 7,"
1999's "Ed TV," and 1998's "The Truman Show."
Because there are few passing signs of spark to any of the material,
it is a mystery to how Robert De Niro got involved. His joking role
of the high-tempered Mitch Preston is nearly a carbon copy of his
work in 1999's "Analyze This" and 2000's "Meet the Parents," minus
the snappy writing and character depth. Less surprising is the appearance
of Eddie Murphy, who has recently relegated himself to making bad
kid's movies ("Dr. Dolittle 2") and even worse comedies (2000's "Nutty
Professor II: The Klumps"). His involvement in "Showtime" does nothing
but cement his drowning career.
Rounding out the major players, Rene Russo (1999's "The Thomas Crown
Affair") is wasted as usual in a stock, one-dimensional part. Russo
is a talented performer, but does she go out of her way to get the
bad roles in the movies? Finally, there is potential in the scenes
involving William Shatner (2000's "Miss Congeniality"), but his cursory
part as an acting coach is nothing but an elongated cameo.
By the time "Showtime" climaxes as a hostage thriller, complete with
a violent shoot-out, the film has all but signed its own death certificate.
Whatever the case may have been behind-the-scenes of this pitiful,
slapdash disaster, the finished product of "Showtime" is a DOA dud from frame one.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman