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  Bowfinger Candid Camera
Year: 1999
Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Adam Alexi-Malle, Kohl Sudduth, Barry Newman, Terence Stamp, Robert Downey Jr, Alejandro Patino, Alfred De Contreras, Ramiro Fabian, Johnny Sanchez, Claude Brooks, John Cho
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 2 votes)
Review: Robert K. Bowfinger (Steve Martin) is a Hollywood producer with big plans, if only the small matter of not actually having made any movies, or even having any projects upcoming, were not getting in the way of his professional success. However, an accountant of his acquaintance, Afrim (Adam Alexi-Malle), has penned a script Bowfinger has just read, and he is very impressed indeed, this could be his ticket to success: a science fiction epic called Chubby Rain about aliens invading Planet Earth in its raindrops. Now all he needs is the backing of a major studio and an equally major star to take the lead, easier said than done but with his loyal crew of hopefuls, all of whom have faith in his abilities, he cannot let anyone down.

One orchestrated meeting with an executive (Robert Downey Jr) later, and it's on! Or rather, Bowfinger thinks it's on since the exec was simply bemused and humouring him when he said he would give him his budget should he be able to secure the services of the biggest action star in the world, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). This sets up the film's main conceit, that the fame-addled Ramsey who would never have given his permission to appear in Bowfinger's movie is actually filmed in secret when the director doesn't have the heart to tell his friends and colleagues this project is in no way sorted out, though there is a rather more corrupt reason as the title character was not exactly pure of motivation.

This offered what could have been a simple high concept comedy vehicle for a couple of big stars an edge, and it was all down to Steve Martin's script which combined his keen sense of the ridiculous with a tightrope walk between warmly depicting a bunch of sweetnatured losers and showing them up for their self-serving ambitions that blind them to their faults and enable them to walk over others in their scrabble to the top, or an approximation of same. Martin had worked in Hollywood long enough to get this mixture down pat, and when Bowfinger was released after a run of family friendly comedies that dismayed his diehard fans for how bland and uninspired they were, this was a welcome return to form. Finally, Steve was back to what he did best.

It didn't really last, but for a brief moment Bowfinger represented an indication Steve Martin still had what it took to create genuinely funny scenes, and not only him either as Eddie Murphy had fallen into the same mediocre cycle of productions that made profits, but could never be said to be exercising his talent to his fullest potential. Murphy took a dual role here as both Ramsey and his goofy brother, far more amusing than he had been in any Nutty Professor movie because he was allowed by director Frank Oz to improvise his lines, and both the star who grows more paranoid the further Bowfinger's scam goes on, and the brother who is frankly exploited by him, were ideal for Murphy's undoubted ability. This was a reason why the film was so welcomed by comedy aficionados - they could point to this and say, see? These guys can be great when they get the chance.

Alas, it seemed the general audience was more keen to watch Martin and Murphy in their family flicks as Bowfinger's quality was not reflected in the box office; no disaster, but not the huge hit it might have been if it had been toned down or even made in the decade before. Backing the stars were a cast each of whom were given their chance in the spotlight, so Heather Graham was the leading lady, an apparent innocent who sleeps her way up the production to gain a better chance at stardom in an Anne Heche manner (another sign Martin was not pulling punches in his humour - even Scientology was lampooned), Christine Baranski is a pretentious veteran who cannot resist approaching Ramsey which only makes him more afraid, and Jamie Kennedy was the man with the filming equipment who is actually in on the scheme. Resembling one of those comedies about moviemaking and the illusions it brings such as Ed Wood or After the Fox, Bowfinger had wide ranging targets but kept them focused within the industry, happy to be silly but smart with it. Music by David Newman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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