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Bowfinger (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 17, 2020




Starring Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp, Jamie Kennedy, Barry Newman and Robert Downey, Jr.

Screenplay by Steve Martin.

Directed by Frank Oz.

Distributed by Univeral Pictures. 97 minutes.   Rated PG-13.

Bowfinger is a good reminder of how much Hollywood misses Steve Martin – both as an actor and as a screenwriter. Oh, sure, Martin hasn’t been totally gone, he’s just been a comic gun-for-hire in such weak projects as Sgt. Bilko and The Out-Of-Towners. Even his writing had become a bit suspect after the misfire of his slightly maudlin Silas Marner update A Simple Twist of Fate. So, it is nice to see that following up his incredible supporting role in The Spanish Prisoner, Martin has rediscovered the joy of his art, returning to the highs of his creative pinnacle of Roxanne.

Bowfinger is a sharp but ultimately affectionate satire of the Hollywood system. Martin plays Bobby Bowfinger, a long-frustrated bottom-rung producer who is about to turn fifty, and he finally thinks he has found the project that will make him a player. The fact that this script is a sci-fi potboiler written by his accountant (with the unfortunate title Chubby Rain) does not slow down Bowfinger’s enthusiasm at all. When a Hollywood power broker (Robert Downey, Jr.) actually agrees to green light the film, Bowfinger is ecstatic. The only catch is that the paranoid self-centered action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy in a wicked self-parody) has to appear in the film to be made. When Ramsey flatly refuses, Bowfinger doesn’t let that stop him, he decides on a guerilla filmmaking process where he films the star without his knowledge. He also hires Ramsey’s slightly slow brother Jif (also played by Murphy) as a body double.

This set-up sounds like it would get tired, but the film stays the course and is consistently funny. Beyond the sterling work of the stars, there are also clever turns by Heather Graham as an “innocent” from the heartland who is more than happy to sleep her way to the top. Christine Baranski is a howl as an aging theater diva. Briskly directed by Frank Oz (who had previously brought out the best in Martin in Dirty Rotten ScoundrelsLittle Shop of Horrors and The Housesitter), Bowfinger has a good-natured love of movie making and the losers at the bottom levels of Hollywood. (8/99)

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©1999 All rights reserved. Posted: August 13, 1999.

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