Welcome to PAN & SCAN where you will find film reviews of some of Hollywood's latest productions.
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Starring: Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Rating: Rated PG-13 for sex-related material & language.
Video Release: 18 January 2000
Tagline: "The con is on."
Bowfinger, written by Martin, is Ed Wood -- 90’s style. It tells of a struggling director (Martin) who lives in a dilapidated bungalow, fantasies about the Fed Ex truck someday visiting him with an "important" communiqué, and puts his life savings (all $2184 of it) into his accountant’s sci-fi spoof script "Chubby Rain." While most of the general populace see filmmaking as this glorious art form on Access Hollywood, Bobby Bowfinger portrays the biz as a place for folks who are willing to make their dream a reality (at any cost) and not just wait around for it to happen.
To entice his crew into working on "Chubby Rain," Bowfinger fabricates a tale that Hollywood's biggest action star, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) is to star in their picture. Bowfinger comes up with an ingenious idea to shoot the movie without Ramsey knowing he is being filmed and explains to his crew that this is how Ramsey works. What follows is a series of well executed filming-on-the-fly scenes in which the crew hide amongst bushes as the actors shoot off their lines to unknowing Ramsey, forcing him to go over the edge as he thinks he’s the target for an alien abduction.
While this film could have easily been a flop, two things save it. One is Martin’s versatile writing and his off-color commentary about Hollywood. The other is the comedic performance by Eddie Murphy (who has double duty) portraying the eccentric Ramsey and the goofy, good-natured Jiff. But first, Martin’s script.
Getting beyond the over-the-top scenes -- from Jiff dashing across eight lanes of LA traffic or Bowfinger performing his crew call at the Mexican border -- it is the Machiavellian humor which makes this script a gem. Sprinkled throughout are jabs at the film industry, as well as, humorous anecdotes geared towards himself and those around him. Examples are how Kit Ramsey, a movie star so paranoid, angry, and generally screwed up suggests the celebrity press's portrait of Murphy during his fall from stardom after his many successes of the early 80’s.
Other examples would include the concept of Mind-Head (or as Bowfinger says "MindFfff... errrr, Head") which is clearly a smack at Scientology -- whom has many supporters in Hollywood. There’s some wicked stabs at the creative financing of movies and hoarding of profits but probably the greatest undercut is the stalking of celebrities (and how the general public can never feel sympathetic for them) as Bowfinger and company stalk Ramsey to shoot their picture. Martin even pokes fun at himself when his starlet (who sleeps with everybody for more scenes) shows up at a party with "Hollywood's most powerful lesbian" (Martin once dated Anne Heche).
And speaking of Ramsey, Murphy’s comedic portrayal as Ramsey/Jiff is one of the best performances since his 80’s star-power roles. He excels in every scene, not only succeeding with presenting a believable paranoia (in the eyes of Ramsey) but in creating a lovable nerd in Jiff as well. As the paranoid Ramsey, he sees white conspiracies everywhere. He crunches the number of k's in scripts and divides them by three to tally up the KKK's suspecting that people "speak in some secret white language." As Jiff, he creates a personality 180° opposite of Ramsey who’s mere facial expressions make you wince and laugh at the same time.
Not that Martin and Murphy should get credit alone for the success of Bowfinger. Directed by the talented Frank Oz, the cast also includes Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Adam Alexi-Malle, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp, and the ever-exceptional Robert Downey Jr.
In one of the film’s funniest scenes, Jerry Renfro (Downey) lunches with a fellow high-powered studio exec. Bowfinger pays off the maitre’d so he can sit next to Renfro as he wants to gain Renfro’s interest in "Chubby Rain." Bowfinger chats [loudly] on his 'cordless' cell phone so Renfro will overhear his make-believe conversation with Ramsey. When Renfro asks to see the script *screenwriters take note* he scans the first page, flips rapidly to the last page (which he also gives a cursory glance) and tells Bowfinger if he can get Ramsey to star, they’ll have themselves a movie. Perhaps Renfro’s script reading was another subtle jab at how the movers & shakers handle an unknown’s script? If so, maybe we should all check the first and last page of our scripts again.
Give Bowfinger a 3.5. A very funny film. Worth checking out.
© Terrence J. Brady
The ratings for "Pan & Scan" are broken down into a simple 1-5 scale as follows: 5 = "Forget renting it - BUY IT!"; 4 = "Definite Must Rent"; 3 = "Coin Toss" (Rent it OR wait for cable); 2 = "Wait For Cable"; 1 = "Ignore It!" (Even when it's on network TV).