"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
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
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