Putting Eddie Murphy on Trial

Uh oh, maybe it’s time to hold on to those Eddie Murphy comeback tickets since Tower Heist lost out to a surprisingly effective second week of Puss and Boots.

always a star. but still relevant?

Puss and Boots made just about the same amount last weekend as it did the weekend before, which is almost impossible. Actually, it’s never happened with a non-holiday movie. Anyway, maybe I’ll add my Murphy tickets to the collection of previous Eddie Murphy comeback bandwagon tickets, the last ones bought during the season of Dreamgirls. They were torn up a couple weeks later when Norbit came out. Bill Simmons, a Murphy lover, wrote a pretty thorough examination of Murphy’s career from SNL to Tower Heist that sums up everything he’s ever done. It was also written completely from an apologist point of view.

When I was reading it — like 5,000 words worth, be warned — it dawned on me. I have only watched a few Eddie Murphy movies in one sitting in my life. I’ve always really, really liked Murphy. But Another 48 Hrs. and Dreamgirls are the only two I’ve seen in the theater. I saw Beverly Hills Cop 2 at a friend’s birthday sleepover at some point, and rented Cop 3 because I didn’t think it could be as bad as it was supposed to be (wrong). I think I may have rented Golden Child, because it was Murphy’s first PG-13 movie.

That was the problem I always ran into with Eddie Murphy — he was out of my age bracket. I wasn’t old enough to watch him on Saturday Night Live, but I saw all the old sketches. My parents were pretty strict on the no R-rated movie thing, and they were especially strict about no Eddie Murphy because of the potty mouth. Anything of Murphy’s I saw — like Raw, which I can pretty much recite and is my vote for best stand-up comedy special ever — was seen when sneaking downstairs after my parents were asleep. When I was older and was looking for him to make some good R-rated comedies, he was making Nutty Professor.

This is not to say I haven’t see the classics, I just saw them in bits and pieces. A little Trading Spaces on Comedy Central, a little Nutty Professor on FX, some Bowfinger on HBO. At this point, I’ve probably seen just about every necessary Eddie Murphy movie, just not all at one time.

like it or not, eddie murphy made pluto nash. on purpose.

The one thing I don’t like about Simmons’ reasoning — and it’s been bothering me since I read it Saturday afternoon — is it gives Murphy a pass for his really crappy movies. Pluto Nash is one of the worst bombs in movie history (Simmons glossed over that) and Norbit made money but scared up a 9 on Rotten Tomatoes. His post-Coming to America career has yielded 29 movies — seven of them have good reviews. Three of those good reviews are animated movies.

His live-action movies from 1989 on have received an average grade on Rotten Tomatoes of 31 percent. 31 percent. Even if you subscribe to the “They’re Out to Get Him” school of thought with movie reviewers, how much is that worth? An extra 10 percent? Maybe 20? If you polled your friends, do you think there’s any chance in the world half of them liked Holy Man? Murphy apologists can claim whatever theory they want, but 31 percent over 23 movies is just a lot of really, really bad choices. Norbit made a lot of money, but it made that money on the heels of Dreamgirls when Murphy’s stock was high. You can’t say anything about Murphy’s bankability or his place in cinema history, they’re both carved in stone. He deserves it all because he was the first black man that Hollywood could depend on to make money. That just wasn’t happening before him, and he became extremely powerful.

this was supposed to be murphy's role. when he passed, winston was pushed to the back.

What you can blame him for is using that power as his personal ATM machine instead of doing something to change the course of movies forever. In 1982, Ghostbusters was written for him. He turned it down to make Beverly Hills Cop (not necessarily a bad decision), but where was that kind of decision-making ability when Showtime made its way to his manager’s desk? It was a lean time for him, but he had to have some kind of other script offer, right? Not only did Showtime — a Murphy movie I have, unfortunately, seen all the way through — sully his career, it also dirtied the body of work of another Hollywood icon, Robert DeNiro. He started ruining other people’s careers!

It’s not like this is a small sample size either, it’s now 22 years and 29 movies. The fact that he still can bust out a great comic performance — Bowfinger and Shrek, especially — shows the bad ones are just bad decisions on his part, based mostly on money. He wrote Norbit. He. Wrote. It. He knew it sucked because he truly is a comic genius, but he decided to go ahead with it anyway.

And that’s fine, he wants to make sure his family is taken care of, and he wants to make sure he has movies he can show to his kids. Cool. Just don’t let anyone delude you into thinking the last 22 years of his career have been anything but family films (for the money), vanity projects (for his ego) or just plain-old stupid decisions (who knows why) with a few good movies thrown in there.

It’s not the other way around. And yes, Tower Heist is already on my DVD queue, and it ain’t for Gabby Sidibe.

A couple quick links:

give me money!

Here’s some news — At the Movies is still on the air. I know, I was surprised too! OK, I wasn’t that surprised, since I follow (and like) host Christy Lemire’s Twitter feed. But the Roger Ebert-funded movie review show is at death’s door, he said, whether his passive aggressive plea for funding comes through or not. Isn’t it outdated anyway? In 1985, At the Movies was required viewing for movie buffs because you couldn’t find that type of movie talk anywhere else. Now? You can’t turn on your computer without finding some kind of movie review website.

Maybe it’s because of how much I didn’t like the last Bond movie, or all the financial problems it’s gone though, but I completely forgot to post about the new Bond movie’s name last week. Whoops. So here it is. I’m just not very exited. Maybe that’s another title that has played itself out, but I’m probably really off base there. Interesting discussion starter though — Is Twitter&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitter” target=”_blank”>James Bond played out?

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