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2012 | 1992

1 item from 1992

'Distinguished Gentleman'

4 December 1992 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Eddie Murphy plays shakedown artist Thomas Jefferson Johnson, who wins a Congressional seat solely because his name is similar to that of the district's longtime, recently deceased representative.

Similarly, name recognition -- Murphy's name on the marquee -- should help Buena Vista with a big early turnout for ''The Distinguished Gentleman.'' Yet this Christmas candidate should pick up ample returns later on, based on its winningly broad comic program. Call it a boxoffice landslide for the Buena Vista party.

In this light reversal of ''Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, '' Mr. Jefferson is no idealistic, corn-fed do-gooder. He's not even a greedy pork barreler with his district's interests in mind -- he's just plain eager to slurp from the public trough.

The only Jeffersonian principle he holds near and dear is the ''pursuit of happiness.'' Washington, D.C., to him is just one big smorgasbord of under-the-table opportunity. When Mr. Jefferson goes to Washington, along with his team of homeys, he's more than eager to use his office to fullest advantage, to partake of the perks, the PACs, the payoffs, the honoraria and, although he's never studied under Henry Kissinger at Harvard, the aphrodisiac of power.

Unencumbered by an agenda and not indebted to any interest groups for his election -- save for a geriatric Jewish rest home -- the street-smart Jefferson is ready to wheel and deal. He cons his way onto the most powerful and corrupt Congressional committee, greasing its chairman (Lane Smith) and lining his pockets with fat-cat cash.

With a fractured, Preston Sturges-like slant on institutional largess and human greed, screenwriter Marty Kaplan has served up a hilarious satire on Congressional malfeasance through the not-so-innocent eyes of a small-time con man learning the ropes of big-time pocket-lining.

Although the narrative dips to a manipulatively melodramatic crisis point, director Jonathan Lynn nimbly keeps it from dripping into corn syrup.

And under Lynn's light and firm direction, Murphy's performance is both distinguished and disciplined. His comic brilliance is at the service of the story and he positively shines with a number of diverse and zany impersonations, most enjoyably a Jesse Jackson takeoff.

The supporting players are a terrific, oddball ensemble, recalling Sturges' crazy-character caravans. Sheryl Lee Ralph, as Jefferson's curvy cousin, properly oozes misdirected drive, while Grant Shaud, as Jefferson's wonky-honky aide, epitomizes the nerdish element of corruption. With his deep and croaky, Eugene Pallette-ish voice, Sonny Jim Gaines is a crusty delight as a homey staffer.

Tech contributions are distinguished by their apt, broad strokes.


Buena Vista

Producers Leonard Goldberg, Michael Peyser

Director Jonathan Lynn

Screenwriter Marty Kaplan

Story Marty Kaplan, Jonathan Reynolds

Executive producer Marty Kaplan

Director of photography Gabriel Beristain

Production designer Leslie Dilley

Editors Tony Lombardo, Barry B. Leirer

Costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuck

Music Randy Edelman

Casting Mary Goldberg

Sound mixer Russell Williams


Thomas Jefferson Johnson Eddie Murphy

Dick Dodge Lane Smith

Miss Loretta Sheryl Lee Ralph

Olaf Anderson Joe Don Baker

Celia Kirby Victoria Rowell

Arthur Reinhardt Grant Shaud

Terry Corrigan Kevin McCarthy

Elijah Hawkins Charles S. Dutton

Armando Victor Rivers

Homer Chi

Running time -- 105 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

(c) The Hollywood Reporter


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2012 | 1992

1 item from 1992

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