“The Midas Touch of ‘Bowfinger'”
by Scott Mantz
Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham
Directed by Frank Oz
There’s one thing Hollywood knows how to do best (other than waste money), and that’s make fun of itself. Pretentious, deceptive, and shallow as hell, there’s certainly a lot to pick on. “The Player”, “The Big Picture”, and “My Favorite Year” are among the best of the show-biz satires, but their small target audience didn’t translate into big box office. The only people who could really appreciate the “in” jokes that highlighted these films were those who worked in “the biz”. Fortunately, “Bowfinger” breaks those barriers with an uproariously hilarious comedy that gives new meaning to the words “guerrilla filmmaking”.
It makes sense that the person responsible for this show-biz jibe is funnyman Steve Martin. In his 1990 film “LA Story”, writer Martin captured the essence of Los Angeles in all its dysfunctional glory. The only problem was if you didn’t live here, you probably didn’t “get” it. “Bowfinger” proves that Martin’s knowledge and appreciation of “the business” is just as sharp and witty, but this time you don’t have to be on the inside to enjoy it.
Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) is a down-on-his-luck producer of such schlocky films, he makes Ed Wood look like Orson Wells. His last shot at stardom lies in a sci-fi script called “Chubby Rain” (don’t ask!). This will be a surefire hit if he can get hot action star-of-the-moment Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) to appear in the film, but Kit will not give him the time of day. Desperate to make the film, Bowfinger follows Kit everywhere with a camera crew, filming his every move without him ever knowing it.
You’d think Bowfinger was a total loser if it wasn’t for his ingenious methods in getting around the Hollywood system. He enlists illegal aliens for his film crew in a way that gives new meaning to the words “below the line”. He recruits Kit’s lookalike brother Jiff (also Murphy) for a busy freeway scene, convincing him that all the cars are being driven by experienced stuntmen. In one of the films funniest scenes, Bowfinger puts his poor dog to use as a foley artist (that’s Hollywood lingo for “sound effects”, baby!). That may be extreme, but what makes Bowfinger different from every other Hollywood producer is his presence of a conscience. Yes, he’s desperate, but he realizes that his crew is just as desperate as he is.
Why Martin and Murphy haven’t teamed together before is a mystery, as this is easily Murphy’s best role (or roles) since “The Nutty Professor”. As Kit, he is obviously having fun playing the spoiled, overly paranoid action star. Whether this is self-parody or art imitating life, Murphy has never been better. Just when he goes over the top with his suspicions, Murphy switches gears and gives a more sympathetic, but just as funny, performance as Kit’s nerdy brother Jiff. Also, Heather Graham brings a naive charm to her role as Daisy. You may think she’s just another aspiring actress fresh off the bus (literally), but don’t be fooled. She wants it all, and she’ll sleep with whoever it takes to get it.
Director Frank Oz has proven himself to be a master of crowd-pleasing mainstream films, as evidenced by “What About Bob?”, “In and Out”, and now “Bowfinger”. Actually, beneath all the zany hilarity of these movies lies a very important message–its never too late to follow your dreams. In show business, it may be about who you know, but if you stay true to yourself and follow your heart, you just might point your finger in the right direction for a happy ending–“Hollywood” style.