By Joe Lozito
The Laugh of Con
God bless Frank Oz for keeping the American Comedy alive. The director of "In and Out" and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" has teamed up with Steve Martin (as both writer and star) to create "Bowfinger", the story of a washed-up would-be movie producer with one last chance to make it big. Bowfinger's scheme is to trick the biggest name in movies into becoming the star of his low budget Alien thriller "Chubby Rain".
The Bobby Bowfinger character is standard Steve Martin fare. And that itself is already funnier than most characters in recent comedies. But the real star of the film is Eddie Murphy. Doing double-duty as self-obsessed, neurotic Action moviestar Kit Ramsey and nerdy misfit Jiff, Mr. Murphy is the best he's been in a long time. The dual roles give him the chance to do what he does best: to skewer the "Hollywood Moviestar" image (speaking with a speed that would give Chris Tucker pause) and to create an over-the-top buffoon behind make-up. Mr. Murphy chews the scenery every chance he gets and it recalls what made him such a star in the first place.
Mr. Martin and Mr. Oz keep the jokes light and frequent (particularly funny is the running punchline of Mr. Martin running into the street yelling "Cut!"), but "Bowfinger" never really achieves the comic heights of their earlier work. The film doesn't have a cohesion that made "In and Out" or "Scoundrels" so memorable. The gags are funny, but they play as random and disjointed. The Scientology parody "Mind Head" is classic Steve Martin, but the character of Daisy (Heather Graham), the literally just-off-the-bus ingenue who's only real character trait is that she sleeps her way through the cast and crew, is a one joke waste that goes nowhere.
A comedy, especially a comedy with the potential that "Bowfinger" had, needs to have some grounding in reality. It requires enough of a suspension of disbelief to think that a film could really be made in the manner depicted here, but then the film ends with a thoroughly unbelievable resolution in which everyone ends up more or less satisfied for no apparent reason. Even a truckload of Eddie Murphy characters couldn't save the film from that ending.