Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:36 - Released 8/13/99

Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy have proven many times over that they have what it takes to play comic or serious roles, and do so with equal skill. They've each written, directed, and produced films before, and that's why they both have a great feel for Bowfinger, written by Martin and directed by muppet master Frank Oz. It is an amusing poke at the Hollywood movie biz, with all of its shallowness, politics, and pretense, but it carries with it that age-old tinseltown message that anything is possible if you reach for the stars.

Martin plays Bobby Bowfinger, the head of Bowfinger International Pictures. Though the name sounds impressive, it's really just Bobby, doing business out of his home and struggling to fend off his creditors. When we meet him he has just finished reading what he calls a "great script": an alien-attacks-Earth story called Chubby Rain. Bursting with excitement, he calls up the writer, Afrim (Italian-born Adam Alexi-Malle), and tells him he wants to produce the film. Afrim has a large family to support but gleefully gives up his accountant job under the assumption that he's going to be a famous Hollywood writer. Then Bobby calls his cameraman, Dave (Jamie Kennedy), a gofer and car wash boy at a large studio who makes liberal use of cars and filming equipment "borrowed" from his clients. And then there's the supporting cast, diva Carol (Christine Baranski) and romantic leads Slater (Kohl Sudduth) and Daisy (Heather Graham). Now all Bobby needs is a star.

Kit Ramsey (Murphy) is the hottest black actor in Hollywood, a spoiled, anti-white prima donna. He is also in therapy to deal with 1) his irrational fear of an alien attack, and 2) his uncontrollable desire to expose himself to the L.A. Lakers' cheerleaders. As Bobby begins work on Chubby Rain, he decides Kit is the perfect lead. To get around the sticky detail of having to pay the superstar, he decides to simply make the film without Kit's knowing it. "We'll have our actors go up to him and say their lines, we'll film his reaction, and that's it — he'll be in the picture." For close-ups and stunts, he finds a Kit Ramsey lookalike named Jiff (also Murphy). Jiff is a shy, geeky errand boy who is just as thrilled to be getting coffee for the cast as he is to be starring in Bobby's film.

What results is a hilarious amateur picture with our cast overacting every line, approaching the panicked actor on the street with heated questions about aliens, and gory special effects, all of which take Kit on a one-way trip to Freakout City. And Dave and Bobby are always there, hiding in the bushes with the camera rolling.

This is the fourth Steve Martin movie directed by Frank Oz [after Little Shop Of Horrors (1986), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), and Housesitter (1992)], and, like the others, it is tons of fun. Martin's screenplay starts out rather slowly, but when the movie-within-a-movie gimmick gets under way, there are some truly hysterical moments and many subtle jabs at the American film industry. Murphy's performance is classic; it's hard to tell which part is funnier. And the backup performances are a riot, with Graham and Baranski wallowing in their overacting — it is obvious that Oz told them to just have fun and go all the way with it. Speaking of going all the way, another amusing subplot is Graham's Daisy sleeping with every member of the cast and crew in order to work her way up the ladder to success. Every time she discovered someone was "in charge" of something, there she'd be, er — networking.

Bowfinger is a lot of fun, and a new feather in the cap for Martin, Oz, and Murphy. ****½

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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