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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bowfinger

Starring: Steve Martin, Eddy Murphy
Director: Frank Oz
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: August 1999
Genre: Comedy

Review by Walter Frith
3½ stars out of 4

1982 was an interesting year that in one way or another, affects the events surrounding 'Bowfinger'. One quirky story involved the estate of the late great Peter Sellers suing those involved with the making of 'Trail of the Pink Panther'. The movie was a series of out takes based on old footage featuring Sellers as Inspector Clouseau from other 'Pink Panther' movies all strung together with new footage containing other actors to look like a new adventure based on the Inspector Clouseau legacy. Since Sellers died in 1980, it looked as if they were trying to make a movie without having to give any compensation to Sellers himself. It was also a year where Steve Martin made 'Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid'. That film showed Martin interacting with footage from other movies, for example, those with Humphrey Bogart to make it look like the old footage and new footage combined made for a coherent film. It was also the year that Eddie Murphy made his motion picture debut in '48 hrs.' which launched a successful movie career for him It was also the year that Frank Oz made his directing debut with the film 'The Dark Crystal'.

Steve Martin likes to lampoon the film industry and make light of its image and the culture surrounding it. His 1991 triumph 'L.A. Story' put the L.A. lifestyle in the proper perspective and he played a slasher film director in Lawrence Kasdan's 1991 mediocrity 'Grand Canyon'. For me, Martin's best role was opposite Michael Caine in 1988's 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels' where Martin played a bumbling con man who gets more than he bargained for when he learns to master his art form at the hands of a more experienced thief played by Caine.

Together for the first time are Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy in 'Bowfinger'. Surprisingly, Martin plays his part in the film completely straight. Murphy is the talent that makes the film work because he plays two characters that have more in common with each other than it first appears.

Martin is Bowfinger, a no talent film maker, sort of an Ed Wood of the 90's who wants to make that one great motion picture. A member of his staff writes a completely campy film about aliens called 'Chubby Rain' that Bowfinger believes will be brilliant. He cons his way into the company of a hot shot studio executive (Robert Downey Jr.,) who, after a brief encounter with 'Bowfinger', tells him he has his deal for a picture if he can land the biggest action star in Hollywood named Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). After Trying to lure Kit into the project personally, Bowfinger fails to get his star but has a back up plan. He tells his staff who have struggled with him for years (played by actors Christine Baranski, Adam Alexi-Malle and Jaime Kennedy) that he did land the deal but confides in only one of them that he failed and decides to photograph the real Kit Ramsey in secret from far away distances without the star's knowledge and uses many excuses to make his staff believe that Ramsey is working on the project voluntarily. Also in the mix is a young actress (Heather Graham), just off the bus from Ohio with dreams of making it big as an actress in Hollywood.

Murphy's character of Kit Ramsey is hilarious. He's the sort of star who is jealous of other action heroes and complains that he doesn't get the same treatment as the biggest stars who are his peers. He treats outsiders like dirt, is close to his entourage and suffers from paranoia and sees a pseudo therapist (Terence Stamp) for his problems. Ramsey's paranoia is all based on misunderstanding. Thrown into the story for all of this is a Kit Ramsey look alike (also played by Murphy), whose character has a great twist that may make Martin's plan work after all.

'Bowfinger' is directed by Frank Oz ('In and Out', 'What About Bob?', 'Dirty Rotten Scoundrels', 'Little Shop of Horrors') and Oz structures his film like a cleverly played game of desperation. He makes light of it all and the film never uses a heavy hand in any of its scenes to make the chemistry between its stars work. Oz also likes to make his movies work like puppet shows. He manages to get the most deadpan looks from his actors and often confines many of his scenes to the same locations. There is also a deft amount of silliness (at times too much) that accompanies his stories in their sub text. Oz's work with Jim Henson's Muppet franchise gave him these light hearted qualities that work well with live action characters and the human actors who play them.

'Bowfinger' has a perfect running length of 97 minutes and is a true triumph for Martin as the film's author. He manages to come up with an entertaining story filled with witty gags and a fair amount of originality and Eddie Murphy shows that at the age of 38, he can still act in a very immature manner and still look like a seasoned veteran of all sorts of comedy as he displays many layers of his past work this time around.

OUT OF 5 > * * * *

Visit FILM FOLLOW-UP by Walter Frith

* * * * * - a must see * * * * 1/2 - don't miss it * * * * - an excellent film * * * 1/2 - a marginal recommendation * * * - can't quite recommend it * * 1/2 - don't recommend it * * - avoid it * 1/2 - avoid it seriously * - avoid it AT ALL COSTS 1/2 - see it at your own risk zero - may be hazardous to your health

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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