Bowfinger (1999)

Bowfinger (1999)
 
 
 

Martin needs just a Jiff

Think of this as an errand. Your errand is to run across the freeway until I yell, "Cut!" - Bobby Bowfinger

Robert Downey Jr. and Steve Martin in Bowfinger

If you want to watch a movie about the movie industry but don't want to sit through a heavy drama or anything close to seriousness then "Bowfinger" may brighten your day because movie making is what it's all about. Written by and starring Steve Martin "Bowfinger" tells a tale of a wheeling dealing director who is forced to employ some comically underhand tactics, hidden cameras and a look a like, to get a movie made. At the same time we have a comical look at the movie industry and the secrets of it's stars which provides another layer of comedy. And add to that you have Eddie Murphy taking on 2 characters and the whole thing being directed by Frank Oz and you have "Bowfinger" a very enjoyable movie, although one which strangely doesn't wow me like it has other people.

Movie producer Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin - Father of the Bride Part II) has mounting debts and actors who are growing tired of him never delivering on his promises so when he reads a script for a sci-fi movie called "Chubby Rain" he sets his mind to make it. The only trouble is that in order to get the backing of Jerry Renfro (Robert Downey Jr.), Bobby must get Hollywood star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy - Life) to star and as Kit doesn't want to it means that Bobby will have to find a way around it. And that is what Bobby does by employing hidden cameras and a look a like to put the movie together, whilst also keeping it a secret from his cast that Kit hasn't agreed to perform.

Heather Graham and Eddie Murphy in Bowfinger

"Bowfinger" is not the first movie to take a satirical look at the movie industry and it's sure to not be the last but it is one of the most mainstream funny. And being mainstream funny also means that it is very straightforward as we watch the comical endeavours of Bobby Bowfinger to make a movie where the star doesn't even know he is in it and his regular cast don't know that the star doesn't know he is in it. It's a simple but enjoyable idea with plenty of funny scenes as we watch Bowfinger and his lowly paid crew set up hidden cameras to try and capture Kit Ramsey for various scenes. It is ultimately daft but entertaining as we have scenes where they try to spook Kit in a car park with the sound of footsteps secretly capturing him acting scared.

But then whilst you have this story of Bowfinger's candid movie making you also have the satirical look at the Hollywood movie making machine. From Bowfinger's dirty office, through to a young starlet willing to sleep her way up to a big role it makes fun of the movie industry. And it really makes fun of the secret lives of stars as we have Kit being part of "Mind Head" a quasi-religious group who help him with his problems, such as his addiction to cheerleaders. But whilst taking an amusing look at the movie industry and star lives it's not in any way vicious, in fact it is all very tame and safe.

And that is part of my issue with "Bowfinger" and why it doesn't wow me because it is all very safe. When Kit is visiting his guru at "Mind Head" it is funny but lacks the punch and when Bowfinger is trying to secure a deal with producer Jerry Renfro it just seems too nice. Maybe those who can spot the in-jokes and subtle references will find it more amusing but from an outside point of view it's not sharp enough in making fun of the movie industry and its stars.

Despite this issue there is no denying that all those involved deliver enjoyable performances be it Heather Graham as Daisy who is willing to sleep her way to the top or Christine Baranski as Carol who is a bit up herself as an actress. But it is very much Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy who makes most of the humour work especially Murphy who does a wonderful job of playing two characters, the nerdish Jiff and then the full on Kit, a character some many see as just a larger than life version of Murphy himself.

Now here is the other thing which you will either enjoy or not because whilst the satirical look at the movie industry is both safe and mainstream it is also seriously daft. You sort of expect over the top humour from Steve Martin and in a way if it was only Steve Martin delivering over the top daftness then maybe "Bowfinger" would have worked but with Eddie Murphy also giving it full on over the top daftness it becomes too much or at least too much for me. It almost feels at times that Murphy and Martin are competing for the biggest laugh and it just feels wrong.

What this all boils down to is that "Bowfinger" is an entertaining look at the movie industry and whilst satirizing movie making does it in a very safe and mainstream manner. It is ultimately very daft and over the top and for some it will be more than averagely enjoyable but with both Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy delivering full on daftness it becomes a little too much at times.

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