Directed by Frank Oz
Starring: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp, Jamie Kennedy.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex-related material and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan
August 13, 1999

Imagine if the crew of The Blair Witch Project decided that instead of having amateur actors film themselves, they just secretly filmed Will Smith on a camping trip, and pulled all the same stuff on him. It could happen, right? Hey, babe, this is Hollywood! Anything can happen!

Steve Martin stars as Bobby Bowfinger, a producer of D-grade movies, if he can manage to finance them. His accountant writes a screenplay for him, and he wants it filmed. He takes on the responsibility of directing, and tells his rag-tag crew that he will get Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), the biggest action star in Hollywood, to play the lead. One catch: Ramsey has no idea he will be in it, but everybody in the crew is told that he is just acting when he runs away from the camera. Bowfinger hires a girl named Daisy (Heather Graham) to be the love interest. She just got off the bus from Ohio, and is perfectly willing to sleep her way to the top of show business (or just around the bottom, as she does here).

When Ramsey gets freaked out by all these strange people talking about aliens (who are actually just reciting their lines), he goes to a mental clinic to "keep it together". So now, Bowfinger needs a double. He find a look-alike in Jiff (also played by Murphy), who does dangerous stunts, nude scenes, and then gets coffee for the crew. Bowfinger must continue this deception with the entire crew and Ramsey, so that he can complete his film.

This is the first time Martin and Murphy have starred together, which promises a wonderful show. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite live up to the promise. Martin wrote the script, and although he had some good ideas, it is terribly uneven. Murphy is sensational, as always, but the material doesn't give him a full opportunity to use his talents. He plays the double roles effectively, but there are no great moments for him to make them really funny.

Graham seems a little out of place. Like in the second Austin Powers, she seems somehow above the level of sophistication around her. Her character is never fully realized, and she is visibly uneasy. The rest of the cast tries in earnest, but they all seem restrained. Perhaps director Frank "No, Yoda Doesn't Sound Like Grover" Oz had to hold them back to avoid an R rating. That would be a shame, and it deprives the audience of a better film.

Bowfinger works as a mildly satrical comedy. It doesn't have the range that Ed Wood had with the same setting, but it does deliver a few laughs. Fans of Murphy shouldn't be disappointed, but they should expect more.

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Bowfinger (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan