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movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Showtime

Starring: Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy
Director: Tom Dey
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 95 Minutes
Release Date: March 2002
Genres: Action, Comedy

*Also starring: Rene Russo, William Shatner, Mos Def, Ken Campbell, Frankie Faison, Julio Dolce Vita

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
1 star out of 4

"Showtime" is the saddest kind of satire – one that gradually turns into the very thing it was mocking. The movie opens with no-nonsense detective Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) giving a speech where he stresses that real police officers spend their time dealing with paperwork and court appearances, not car crashes and shoot-outs. By the time the production reaches its third act, it is nothing but car crashes and shoot-outs.

We first see bumbling patrolman and would-be actor Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy) as he auditions for a role as a TV cop, playing a scene with an actor portraying, cliché of clichés, a gruff black lieutenant. A few minutes later, Mitch gets the riot act read to him by his boss, a gruff black lieutenant.

At no point do the filmmakers acknowledge any of this. A well-placed one-liner could have changed the tone of the scenes, but we never hear a single self-aware word, leaving us to wonder if the filmmakers even noticed what happened.

I remember when the same thing happened to Eddie Murphy. In the early days, he was this wonderfully brash kid mocking the affectations of the pompous. On "Saturday Night Live" he parodied self-important showbiz icons like Sinatra or Presley in their latter days when they surrounded themselves with entourages of yes-men. In "Beverly Hills Cop," his character walked down a Los Angeles street chuckling at a pair of guys decking out in Michael Jackson-style red plastic full-body outfits.

Then something happened. Suddenly, Eddie started traveling with an entourage of beefy types, and in the concert film, "Raw," he made his grand entrance wearing a black jumpsuit that looked remarkably similar to the joke clothes from the previous film.

Weird. So weird.

"Showtime" purports to satirize "reality" TV shows, but fails to include sufficient doses of reality. Consider how the creation and evolution of the show plays out. Network TV producer Chase Renzi (Rene Russo) wants to create a reality buddy cop series. When a photographer from her network interferes with an arrest, Mitch shoots out the camera the man is holding alongside his head. Would a seasoned officer in real-life ever do such a thing? Chase gets to team Mitch with Trey when the network cuts a deal with the police brass, agreeing to drop a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the force over Mitch's actions in exchange for his services in the show. Even with a lawsuit in the balance, would a law enforcement agency allow a hotheaded officer involved in a controversial incident and a goofball rookie to appear in uniform, representing their department, in a network TV series?

The series gets on the air in a remarkably short period of time and, of course, becomes a massive hit, prompting crowds to gather in the streets to cheer on the cops. Would a TV series that is little more than a variation of "Cops" even become a hit, let alone a sensation? Later, when the LAPD powers-that-be grow displeased with the show, they order Mitch not to participate. Huh? What about the deal? Chase looks depressed when she hears the decision and immediately begins planning the end of the series. Huh? What about the fucking deal? And what about her and the network? With a mega-hit show on their hands, would they simply fold up their tents because the police chief was cheesed-off?

As I said, reality rarely intrudes this reality show.

All of this could be easily dismissed as nit picking if the movie was consistently entertaining, but it isn't. Granted, there are a few amusing scenes, but not nearly enough. William Shatner is good for a few grins playing himself as an advisor hired to teach the cops how to move like "T.J. Hooker." Eddie Murphy has some good moments, although he is too physically mature to be playing a rookie upstart. Still, one must be grateful for any film that gives him the chance to strut his stuff without being smothering by special effects.

Rene Russo exhibits lots of enthusiasm, but her role is underwritten. As for Robert De Niro, all that is required of him is to act annoyed, which he does so well that you wonder whether you are watching a character angry at a situation or an actor angry at a lousy script.

Either way, he agreed to participate in this half-assed mess and must deal with the results. And that is the reality of "Showtime."

Copyright © 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott

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