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Given Tom Cruise's recent unstable behavior, it might be the right time
to revisit 'Bowfinger,' Steve Martin and Frank Oz's highly
under-appreciated satire of the side of Hollywood we mere mortals
aren't supposed to see.
In Hollywood, there are no secrets--everyone knows who's secretly gay or insane, and who's slept with who, when, where, and what they got out of it. But no one wants powerful enemies, and in the quickly shifting landscape of stardom, where one can transform almost overnight and with no apparent or predictable logic from b-list character actor or teen idol into a-list mega-star and Oscar-caliber actor who can open hundred-million dollar movies and make or break the careers of his/her friends and acquaintances, no one wants to be the one who spills the scandalous beans.
For this reason, 'Bowfinger'--the 'Spinal Tap' of contemporary Hollywood--was barely made, and upon its release was greeted with a politely, barely restrained gasp of horror from everyone on the inside who recognized Martin's unusually liberal borrowings from the gossip files to construct this smart, dry, tastefully executed comedy about a has-been-before-he-ever-was actor/director who concocts a scheme to sell his hopelessly bad sci-fi action film project to a major studio by surreptitiously following and filming a major action film star, manipulating his behavior when able, and then later patching a film together with the clandestine footage and a few shots with a body-double. Little does Bowfinger (the loser, played with typical charm and intelligence by the great Steve Martin) know that the film star he means to exploit--Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy)--is a paranoid, delusional basket case of psychological problems barely being held together (though, one suspects, also being held at the edge of sanity) by his mentors at MindHead, a bizarre, cultish, mind-controlling religion obviously meant to stand in for the Church of Scientology, the increasingly infamous faith/life method of numerous Hollywood stars, most notoriously Tom Cruise and John Travolta (musician Beck has allegedly also recently joined the ranks of Scientology, at the behest of his father and his girlfriend, the sister of actor Giovanni Ribisi, also a Scientologist).
Bowfinger assembles a motley crew of Hollywood wannabes, which include the fabulous Christine Baranski as Carol, an aging stage actress who drives around town listening to old recordings of herself singing show tunes; Heather Graham as Daisy, a presumably naive young beauty who steps off the bus in L.A. and immediately sets about trying to sleep her way to the top (Daisy is based on nutso actress Anne Heche, who exploited Martin before moving up the food chain to a public lesbian affair with Ellen Degeneres, whose sit-com was then at peak popularity); Adam Alexi-Malle as Afrim, Bowfinger's corpulent Pakistani accountant and the author of 'Chubby Rain,' the ludicrous alien invasion script which Bowfinger believes will catapult him to fame and respectability; Jamie Kennedy as Bowfinger's camera operator, who smuggles equipment out of the studio lot where he works as a low-level crew man; and Kohl Sudduth as Bowfinger's sweet but vapid excuse for a heart-throb. This gang of misfits works well together in various gags lampooning the film industry.
But the film is stolen entirely by Eddie Murphy, first as Kit Ramsey, whose paranoid rants include the observation that a script his agent has offered him must be racist because the letter 'k' appears in it a number of times divisible by three ('KKK' appears in this script 111 times!) and the twisting of a remark made by the agent about a script--'it's not Shakespeare'--into a racist slur ('Shakespeare?!? Shake-a-Spear! You callin' me a spear-chucker!?!), and later as Jiff, Kit's nerdy and socially inept twin brother, who unwittingly stumbles into Bowfinger's scheme and agrees both to serve as a stunt/body double and errand boy for the film ('Running errands would be a real boost for me!' he gleefully remarks).
One of the great things about 'Bowfinger' is the opportunity to see Eddie Murphy create two ridiculous characters the way he once did so frequently on Saturday Night Live, before 'Bevery Hills Cop' send his ego to Mars. He looks like he's having the time of his life, and the fabulous talent he has wasted so frequently on mediocre to painfully bad star vehicles like 'Coming to America,' 'Harlem Nights,' or 'Vampire in Brooklyn' is once again apparent, and triumphant. Together, Martin and Murphy remind us how comedy should be made: with intelligence, humility, generosity--and, most importantly, scathing wit.
Scientology gets fairly merciless treatment in the form of MindHead, a cult-like corporate religion led by Terry Stricter (Terence Stamp), who soothes the paranoiac Kit with new-agey acronym lessons (K.I.T=Keep It Together) and chastens him not to 'show it to the Laker Girls' when he hears the voice of Teddy Kennedy instructing him to 'bring the Laker Girls down a peg or two.' Given Tom Cruise's recent weirdness and the fact that he openly travels with a cadre of Scientologists who function like a Secret Service detail, it's not hard to suspect that Kit Ramsey was written with Tom Cruise in mind (the role was originally written for Keanu Reeves but was ultimately changed and offered to Murphy).
Murphy's presence, ironically, may have undermined this film in its initial release, as audiences many audiences left theaters disappointed, having expected more of a traditional slapstick comedy with Murphy in a larger role (his scenes are easily the funniest, but Kit and Jiff or secondary characters). But it's well worth revisiting for its quality and its scathing critique of the business of Hollywood.
The remarkable thing about this film is that hardly ever has Steve Martin ever been so genuinely sympathetic without seeming clumsy about it. Believe me, this movie could have been over in the first few minutes if the writing hadn't started out so deliciously cynical. Immediately, I was hooked by the story of this downtrodden dreamer who endeavors to commit his life's savings to a hopeless cause. Forget about the weak (tacked-on) ending and the craziness for comedy's sake. This is a light character study worthy of a filmlover's earnest attention. Kudos to Murphy for the dual role-one a loving tribute to his inner child and the other a biting satire of his public image.
Steve Martin, the funniest man alive in the 80s, lost his way in the 90s
with the likes of "Leap Of Faith" and "A Simple Twist Of Fate". Now, after
sterling work in David Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner", Martin's return to
writing and acting in straight-up comedy is surprisingly, reassuringly good.
"Bowfinger" is a movie about movies, with all the potential for in-jokery
and self-indulgence that brings, but for the most part dispenses with the
clever-clever, isn't-Hollywood-shallow stuff to deliver laughs.
Martin's Bobby Bowfinger, a struggling producer desperate for a hit before he reaches the 'unemployable' age of 50, hits on the idea of putting action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) in his new sci-fi film "Chubby Rain" without the star knowing anything about it. Consequently, Bowfinger's inept crew follows Ramsey around in increasingly crazy and surreal fashion, utilising everything from 'Will Work For Food' signs made of foil to cranes mounted on trucks to get the shot they need. When Bowfinger stumbles across a Kit double (Murphy again) who will do anything the director asks including fetch the coffee, he starts to think all his birthdays have come at once. Meanwhile, the neurotic Ramsey, never that stable to begin with, begins to lose it altogether as he becomes convinced that sex-crazed pod people are stalking him.
It's a simple plot and, while the script throws a few barbs at Hollywood, it's played mainly for big laughs - and gets them. Heather Graham is spot-on as the ingenue literally just off the bus from Ohio who is prepared to sleep with anyone to get longer scenes, and Jamie Kennedy is all laconic wit as Bowfinger's long-suffering assistant. Really, though, it's Martin and Murphy's show. The original wild and crazy guy shows he hasn't lost all his manic energy in the title role, nor his wit with the sharp script. Surprisingly enough, though, the standout performance is Murphy's; he is brilliant as both the paranoid, highly-strung Kit and his dumb-but-sweet double Jiff. This might even be a career-best.
It's simple, lightweight and throwaway of course, but comedies that try to SAY something, even if they're good, often just don't make you laugh that much. Bowfinger will.
After seeing how good the combination of director Frank Oz and actor
Steve Martin was in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," I wasn't surprised that
the two would make "Bowfinger" interesting, too. It's not the caliber
of "Scoundrels," but it's still fun to watch.
Eddie Murphy, as usual, is responsible for a lot of laughs as he plays two characters: this paranoid New Age-type follower and a very nerdy stand-in actor. In both roles, he's effective. Terrence Stamp, meanwhile, does his normal intense job of acting as the leader of a far-out "mind group" that one of Murphy's characters belongs. Heather Graham provides the sex appeal. Few women have made the transition from wholesome country girl to sleazeball in one movie as Graham does here. It's shocking but laughable at the same time, which pretty much describes this odd film. Nice to see Steve Martin back in form, too.
Stage actor turned Grade Z amateur filmmaker:Bobby Bowfinger (Steve
Martin) is Hollywood's least successful director. When Bowfinger
decides to make an ultra low-budget film with the hottest action
star:Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). But Bowfinger will filmed his latest
protect without Ramsey never knowing that he's in the movie! Bowfinger
uses his crew and his actors to act with Rasmey in several scenes to
pull the scam off. But Rasmey is actually a paranoid action star, who
believes in aliens and other outrageous things. For Bowfinger's
ingenious scheme, he decides to use a double for Rasmey, a nerdy
look-alike (Also played by Murphy).
Directed by Frank Oz (HouseSitter, Little Shop of Horrors-1986, The Stepford Wives-2004) made an wildly funny comedy that is actually based on a real incident in the late 1920's with actress Mary Pickford, which it's hard to be believe. Still, this comedy manages to be quite original and also this is an underrated film. Good supporting cast includes:Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp, Adam Alexi-Malle, Kohl Sudduth and Robert Downey, Jr. Murphy is fun in is dual role (especially in the role of the nerdy look-alike). Sharp, funny script by actor:Martin (The Jerk, Roxanne, Shopgirl). (****/*****).
"Bowfinger" is one of the funniest movies I have seen in years. It works
because it allows the laughs to build from the way the characters play off
each other's personalities, without becoming puppets of the script. It is
for people who love the movies as well, because that's what it's really
about; how the movie industry works on such unlikely coincidences, and how
the truly desperate are sometimes successful against their own
The movie is basically about a group of folks who want desperately to make a movie, to break into the big time. They are led by Bobby Bowfinger, of "Bowfinger International Productions", a hack film "studio" in a ramshackle office in an L.A. suburb. Bowfinger is the right man to head this team; he's unscrupulous, infinitely resourceful, and isn't daunted by the fact that his budget will come from the dollars he saved up each week since he was a kid, stashed in a box in his attic. He collects his film crew from illegal immigrants trying to cross the border.
His accountant has just written a script about aliens hiding in raindrops. Don't ask, just watch the movie. The movie is called "Chubby Rain". Bowfinger wants Hollywood's leading action star, Kit Ramsey, to play the lead. As Ramsey, Eddie Murphy turns out one of his best performances. Ramsey is wildly egotistical and emotionally unstable to a fault. He is a member of "Mind Head", one of those many Scientologist-like groups, where he goes often to discuss his many insecurities and paranoid fears, like that of, of course, aliens.
Naturally, Ramsey refuses to be in the picture. That doesn't stop Bowfinger. He comes up with a clever, if risky, idea: follow Ramsey around, shoot him surreptitiously from a distance, using his own actors to play their parts with him, without Ramsey's knowledge. This leads to many very funny scenes in which Ramsey comes to believe his paranoid fantasies about aliens are in fact real, while the actors in the movie praise Ramsey's "style".
Eventually, a stunt double is needed for certain scenes, and a Ramsey look alike, named Jiff, is brought on board. Jiff is an entirely unique character, played also by Murphy as a slow-witted innocent with a sheepish grin and a nasal voice. He is lovable and yet annoying at the same time, to Murphy's credit, and a great movie character.
I liked a lot of things about the movie, especially the eye it has for the way Hollywood works. I really enjoyed a scene early on where Bowfinger stages a phony call with a car phone in a restaurant to create an opportunity to pitch his script to a high-powered executive played by Robert Downey, Jr. Downey is surprised to see the cord dangling from Martin's phone; he may not take him seriously, but he's not likely to forget meeting him.
I also liked the way Ramsey complains to his agent about not having a catch phrase the way white action stars have. His agent points out a scene where he pushes a guy named Cliff off a cliff. "That's too cerebral for an audience," shouts Ramsey. "We're making a movie, not a film!" He points out that in the script he is reading, the letter "k" appears a number of times that is exactly divisible by three, so "KKK" appears "486 times!"
What is best about the movie is the way Bowfinger goes for broke, improvising all the way. He proceeds with a determination fueled by the insane notion that this scheme could actually work. You have to respect the chutzpah of someone who wants to succeed that badly, even if he bends a few rules along the way.
Steve Martin scored a bullseye with BOWFINGER, a smart and cleverly mounted comedy, which Martin also wrote, which stars Steve Martin as Bobby Bowfinger, a down and out Hollywood producer on the verge of going out of business who gets hold of a script to produce and wants big time action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) to star in it. When Ramsey won't give Bobby the time of day. Bobby decides to shoot the film without Kit's knowledge or consent. This premise is a wonderful set-up for some very funny sight gags. Eddie Murphy is on target as Kit Ramsey and as a milquetoast lookalike hired to do Ramsey's stunt work and close-ups. Murphy delivers one of his funniest performances as the lookalike and there are other effective contributions from Heather Graham, Jamie Kennedy, Christine Baranski,Terrence Stamp, and Robert Downey, Jr. A smart and winning comedy about the inner workings of modern Hollywood with a great screenplay and starring performance by Martin and Eddie Murphy in the dual role of a lifetime.
Wow! It finally happened! Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy Together! This movie is genius! There is so much going on here and Steve and Eddie are at their best. From the opening scene, you can just tell you are in for a real treat. This is one of my all time favorite movies. And people who voted less than excellent for this movie; either hate comedy or don't know how to enjoy real comedy. Eddie Murphy again does double duty playing two completely different characters, one more funnier than the next. Steve Martin plays the not so straight man director. This is a madcap screwball comedy. And the highway scene is tears crying down your face funny! I highly recommend this movie to any one who loves to really laugh! Unless your dead, you can't help but laugh. I don't mean chuckle, grin, smile etc. I mean laugh!!!!
How does Bobby Bowfinger, Hollywood's least successful director, get Kit
Ramsey, Hollywood's biggest star, in his ultra low-budget film? Anyway he
can. With an ingenious scheme and the help of Kit's eager and nerdy
ambitious and sexy wanna be actress and over-the-hill diva. Bowfinger sets
out to trick Kit Ramsey into the performance of a lifetime.
To describe Bowfinger, it is a stupid idiotic film, which works. I thought it was terrific. Steve Martin (who wrote the film) plays the part of a hopeless director perfectly. While the other main star Eddie Murphy, again pulls off another great double as both Kit and Jiff Ramsey. Is there an end to this guys talent? i look forward to seeing Nutty Professor 2 soon. Heather Graham was again at her sexy best as Daisy. The other stand out actor for me in this film was Terrence Stamp. Can you remember him from Superman 2? That's right he was General Zod and in Bowfinger he is Terry Stricter, Kit's Councillor. His role was also well done. A final mention to one star, but with four legs, Mindy (aka Betsy) who was used perfectly. Animals who star on any movie or TV show have a special talent, this dog is no exception. Bowfinger is also a movie within a movie, which at any time must be hard to shoot, but thanks to Aussie director Frank Oz, Bowfinger comes out beautifully. Bowfinger Scores 3.5/5 Stars or 7/10. If you want a laugh see this wild, funny comedy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OH, my goodness, I can't believe that scientologists didn't sue over
this one! "Welcome, to Mind Head....." Whenever Tom Cruise, John
Travolta or whoever the latest contributor to the institution of
deception for monetary purposes under the guise of "erudite philosophy"
comes on TV or some commercial, my kids invariably start chanting
"welcome.....to Mind head...." (Yes, my children are hilarious), but I
loved the chanting of "keep it together, keep it together!", so funny!
Eddie Murphy as his dorky brother is also hilarious. How he just
casually mentions that Kip is his brother. Oh, this one is a classic.
Even the plot is funny, and ridiculous. Perhaps it's a little long, but
Crossing the freeway was a great scene. Fun movie!
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