Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp, Robert Downey jr, Barry Newman, Adam Alexi-Malle, Kohl Sudduth.
A sprightly and wickedly funny spoof on Hollywood, low budget film making, ambition, and the egocentric behaviour of stars, Bowfinger heralds an overdue return to form for Steve Martin. This often manic comic’s career has languished in a series of largely unfunny, laboured comedies that only hint at his capabilities. Arguably his funniest comedy since Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bowfinger reunites Martin with director Frank Oz, who seems able to get the best out of him. Martin also wrote the script for this manic comedy, which further proves that his best films are often those he pens for himself (Roxanne, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, etc).
Martin plays Bobby Bowfinger, a disillusioned and desperate film maker on the periphery of the Hollywood scene. He finds his last chance to make a name for himself when he stumbles upon the script for a schlock sci-fi action flick he believes will propel him to the big time. However, the only way to get the film approved by the town’s money men (including a nicely smarmy Robert Downey jr) is to cast Kit Ramsey, the world’s biggest action star and current box office champion. Unfortunately, the increasingly erratic and paranoid Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) wants nothing to do with the film.
Bowfinger hatches a crazy scheme to covertly shoot his no-budget movie around an unaware Ramsey, and assembles a crew of hangers-on and wannabes. He follows the actor around, and has his actors approach Ramsey and deliver their lines. All of which bewilders the paranoid star, and provides for some spectacularly funny encounters. But then the spooked Ramsey inexplicably disappears, leaving Bowfinger and his amateurish crew to find a lookalike replacement to continue the project.
Murphy and Martin play off each other beautifully in the scenes they share, and one wonders why they’ve never worked together before. The role of Bowfinger is the sort of likeable rogue and genial con artist that Martin plays so well, although here he gives his pitiful desperation a comic edge that is endearing. Murphy plays a dual role here, appearing both as the suave, if slightly unbalanced Ramsey, and also as his mild mannered, dentally challenged brother, but his performance features many of his familiar mannerisms.
Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, etc) is superb as the ambitious ingenue who ruthlessly sleeps her way to the top. Christine Baranski is marvellously droll as the faded actress who thinks this movie is her last chance at stardom and is determined to make every moment on screen count. With films like What About Bob? to his credit, Oz is a dab hand at comedy, and he maintains a frantic pace throughout. However, there are a few moments that fall flat and don’t work all that well. Oz and Martin have resisted the temptation to fill the screen with celebrity cameos, which would have pushed the film in a different direction, and made it uncomfortably close to yet another Player-like satire.
Ultimately, Bowfinger is an enjoyable enough comedy that provides plenty of laughs.