Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Decline of Eddie Murphy

Before I get into anything else, I want to thank everyone who wrote comments on the last couple of posts. Thanks to Kaleen, Daniel G., MC, Kim, Whitney, Laura, Shaun, Fox, Megan, Rick Ryan, Evan Derrick, Fletch, DC Movie Girl, and Ross Williams for your great comments!

Also, thanks to everyone who voted in this week's poll question. Apparently, the majority of film fans haven't enjoyed a Cuba Gooding Jr. movie in over 10 YEARS. As Good as it Gets topped out as the winner. I would recommend Men of Honor, the story of the first African-American US Navy Diver, as worthy of a Netflix rental.

On to this week's events!
Last week, Ross Williams raised a good question.
What the hell has happened to Eddie Murphy?

Saturday Night Live. 48 Hrs. Trading Places. Coming to America! Anyone can name a bunch of Eddie Murphy classics. You own them. You quote them. You love them. The thing is, Murphy came to America a long, long time ago.

In the 1980s, he was a comedy God.
In the 90s, atheism took over.
No one believes in Eddie Murphy anymore.

How does someone start so high and then fall so low? Since my last post, I've been trying to figure this out. These days, the image of Murphy is one of fat suits and failure. Nowadays, anyone can name any bunch Eddie Murphy flops. Some might say his post-80s career peaked at The Nutty Professor and then something happened. Movie after movie got released. Each one seemed worse than the last.

What happened to the raunchy comic who crossed over successfully onto the big-screen? How did the star of so many comedy classics end up making a series of disappointing B-pictures? Was there something that happened in his career or in his life that forced this change? One of the things people don't talk about is that...

Eddie Murphy has been making awful movies
since the
beginning of his career.

Contrary to popular belief, Murphy made bad movies long before the mid-90s.

1. Best Defense (1984)
2. The Golden Child (1986)

Told you so.

Luckily for Murphy, these bad movies were released in between good ones. Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop, and Beverly Hills Cop II. They made you forget the bad ones. The good movies outshone the bad ones. Not anymore.

Today, the opposite is happening. Murphy's been in a number of good movies since The Nutty Professor. Don't believe me? What about Life, Dreamgirls, and three Shrek movies? And who could forget about "The PJs?" Don't tell me I'm alone in my love for "The PJs?" The trouble is, all of those good movies are sandwiched between multiple terrible ones. Today, the bad movies are outweighing the good.

Kid-Tested, Mother Approved

Murphy's stand-up comedy was raunchy and people loved it. Most of his early 80s movies had a lot of swearing, potty humor, fight scenes, even nudity. Who can forget the Coming to America bath scene? Everything was working out just fine. Then came a couple flops.

Beverly Hills Cop III, Vampire in Brooklyn, and Metro showed that a change was in order.
Enter: the Family-Friendly Films.

These movies were huge! These were his tickets back to the top.
That's when the trouble began.

Two of Murphy's biggest successes were in voice-over work. The only times critics saw him on-screen were in family movies like Dr. Dolittle. Family movies hardly ever get a fair shake from the critical community. Once the memories of The Nutty Professor faded away, Hollywood seemed to forget why we liked Eddie Murphy. Or that we liked him at all.

Raunchy 80s Eddie worked. Squeaky clean Eddie worked too. When he tries to land somewhere in the middle, that's when everything goes wrong. It hasn't worked since The Nutty Professor. Since then, Holy Man, Bowfinger, Showtime, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, and I Spy represent a long series of PG-13 disasters.

You would think that after the first few flops, he would have realized what worked and what didn't. But no, something kept pushing Eddie to abandon the successful formulas. Just look at that list of stinkers! For a while, it seemed like nothing could resurrect his career.

Like my girlfriend's favorite singer says,
"the times, they are a-changin'."

Financial hits like Daddy Day Care kept Eddie afloat as did the Shrek 2 monster. Then Eddie was cast as James "Thunder" Early in the critically-adored Dreamgirls. Who would have thought that Pluto Nash would ever get an Oscar nomination?

But as my girlfriend's favorite boyfriend predicted, he didn't win. The Oscar went to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine and Pluto Nash stormed out of the Kodak Theatre and got back on his spaceship. Who needs dignity when you're getting ready to knock the movie-going public on their butts?

After things started getting good for Eddie Murphy...someone whispered into his ear. That person (Satan, I believe), told him that CROSSDRESSING and FAT SUITS were the logical next step to follow an Oscar nomination.

[That tagline couldn't be more fitting.]

His role in Dreamgirls will probably go down in history as little more than a fluke. There were persistent rumors that the Oscar went to Alan Arkin instead of Murphy because his next film was Norbit. The Academy refused to reward someone who starred, co-starred, and wrote this piece of garbage. Well, serves him right. He should have known better.

What works for Eddie Murphy are PG-rated Kids Movies. Possibly, someday, he could return to his R-rated raunchy roots and give that a try again. But what he needs to stop doing is making PG-13 bombs. His latest, Meet Dave is a prime example of what Hollywood needs to stop. They always bomb, so why keep making them?

What's Next for Norbit?

Excluding Meet Dave, his next few movies don't appear to be Norbit-bad. Still in the development stages, Murphy has two projects that each sound interesting. The first, A Thousand Words follows a guy finds out he only has 1,000 words left to speak before he dies. How the script will deal with the fact that he could just opt not to speak is left to be seen.

The second film is called NowhereLand. Murphy is a busy dad, too busy for his own daughter. Somehow, he ends up in his daughter's imaginary world. I bet there'll be a lot of lessons learned in this one. Hopefully, each of these will be successful and he'll finally learn to let someone else entertain the 13+ crowds. The world can't handle another Bowfinger.


Fox said...

I remember being so excited when Bowfinger came out. I thought it was gonna be a return to form, or, at resurfacing of weirdness. But I was bored.

Granted, it was what... 10 years ago when that came out?? I probably owe it a second viewing at this point.

Still... I'll probably still go see Meet Dave this weekend if I get a chance.

Megan said...

Eddie has fallen into the bunghole of "listen to your agent" when all your agent wants is a cut...

Ryan McNeil said... I the only person who actually LIKED Bowfinger?? Yeah the very end was silly as all hell, but there are lines in that flick that still crack me up.

"Happy Premise Number Three: Even though I think I might burst into flames at any moment, I probably won't."


elgringo said...

Okay, granted it's been years since I've seen Bowfinger, but I remember not enjoying it at all.

Maybe I'll give it another try...see if I've been wrong about it all this time.

Ryan McNeil said...

Do so, if only for the writing ("She has all the excitement of a zip code in Kansas").

BTW - funny little twist with the Lamb Chops. I suggested your Cuba bit, and one of my own. However when the LC's were posted, yours made the cut...mine didn't.

Ya gotta love that!

Anonymous said...

I rather enjoyed Bowfinger and its poke in the eye of Scientology before it was considered cool to do so. It was rather ironic that it starred both Eddie and Steve Martin, another comedic genius banished to the piffle of family-friendly fare such as "Cheaper by the Dozen." (And you might add the DeNiro-co-starring 'Showtime' to the list of 80s gods at their lowpoint.)

Eddie's demise can be blamed on nothing but old-fashioned hubris (how could he get away with mocking the Thriller-era Micheal Jackson jacket in Beverly Hills Cop, but wear a nearly identical leather suit in 'Raw?').

All that said, I bet Joe Piscopo would give his steroid-swollen left arm for the lead in even 'The Haunted Mansion.'

elgringo said...

Judge Reinhold would too.

Anonymous said...

Judge Reinhold is like grown-up Marshall. He should guest star on an episode of HIMYM as old Marshall. He was awesome on Arrested Development.

Shaun said...

Scott, I'll also have to jump on the contrarian bandwagon of souls who actually enjoyed Bowfinger. At the very least, it beats the Nutty Professor and its gauntlet of fart jokes.

MC said...

I hate Scientology and Anne Heche gets on my nerves(and she was the inspiration for Heather Graham's Daisy), so I think Bowfinger was the last good live action movie both Martin and Murphy have done.

Ross Williams said...

Hey, glad I could inspire a post from you. You wrote, what I wish I had the time too. Totally agree with most of it, the guy hasn't been relevant in far too long. I avoid his movies like the plague these days.

I do disagree with your assessment of the first Shrek film, which I like, though I don't count it as an "Eddie Murphy" film, since he's not the star and it's only his voice. The sequels do suck hard though. And Bowfinger, while not a great film, I thought was one of his only good choices in the last two decades. It's at least interesting, and he's not farting it up in a fat-lady-suit.

Brenda Faircloth said...

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