Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:35 - Released 3/15/02

The problem with Showtime, written by Keith Sharon, Alfred Gough, and Miles Millar (based on a story by Jorge Saralegui), and directed by Tom Dey (his second film, after Shanghai Noon), is that in trying to make fun of showbiz and so-called "reality" TV shows, it is guilty of just the kind of dumbed-down Hollywood overindulgence it is supposed to be lampooning. Rather than creating a stark contrast between real life and movieland cliché, which would have better served the film's satirical goals, Dey dishes up the same ridiculous high-octane foolishness we have grown to loathe from big-budget action films. Pairing no-nonsense actor Robert De Niro and comedy king Eddie Murphy may have been a clever idea rife with possibilities, but they are working for a creative team that ultimately misses its own point.

De Niro is Mitch Preston, a veteran L.A. investigator who takes his job seriously. "I've never had to choose between the blue wire and the red wire," he states in an opening monologue. "I've never jumped from the roof of one building to another, and I've never seen a car flip over and burst into flames." Real life, he claims, is very different from what is seen in the movies; in fact he holds all media in low regard. Trey Sellars, on the other hand (played by Murphy), is a simple beat cop who wants to be an actor. He's never participated in a "real" investigation, as his job primarily consists of putting up the yellow caution tape at the crime scene, but he desperately wants to think of himself as an action hero, even saying to himself, "It's Showtime!" before he approaches a possible criminal situation. These two cops could not be more different, and the one who decides to bring them together is Chase Renzi (Rene Russo), a TV producer hoping to save her floundering network, Maxis, by creating a reality program starring two real-life LAPD partners. At first Mitch refuses, of course, but he's pressured into the project by his superior, who wants to avoid litigation after Mitch shot a hole in a Maxis videographer's camera.

The unhappy partnership is formed, with Trey offering Mitch acting suggestions and Mitch returning the favor with "Stay out of my way and I won't shoot you." Thrilled with Trey's love of the camera and Mitch's crusty "real" quality, Chase dubs the show Showtime and launches a massive advertising campaign. Ignoring the series director's (Willam Shatner) pleas to exhibit more action-hero behavior (Shatner's old TV character, T.J. Hooker, is even mentioned), Mitch tries to investigate the dealings of a sinister arms smuggler (Pedro Damián), but his work is hindered when the show becomes a huge hit and he and Trey turn into national celebrities.

This is an example of a clever idea squandered by the short-sightedness of Hollywood producers. Even after Mitch's opening monologue about the movie industry's misrepresentation of the life of a cop, he is then forced through the same hoops to capture the moviegoer's dollar. High-speed car chases careen through the narrow back alleys of L.A. Cars and other objects regularly burst into flames upon impact, just like on The Simpsons. Cops and criminals alike shoot indiscriminately in crowds. And the final action set piece is so far-fetched it defies the imagination. Murphy and De Niro are both talented and they handle the material with ease, but they're being criminally misdirected. If Dey wanted this movie to be a straight action film, he should have dispensed with any attempt at comedy. And if he wanted it to be a biting satire about Hollywood's tendency to overindulge, then he should learn to practice what he's preaching. ***

Copyright 2002 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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