BOWFINGER(director: Frank Oz; screenwriter: Steve Martin; cinematographer: Ueli Steiger; editor: Richard Pearson; cast: Steve Martin (Bobby Bowfinger), Eddie Murphy (Kitt Ramsey, Jiff Ramsey), Heather Graham (Daisy), Christine Baranski (Carol), Jamie Kennedy (Dave), Barry Newman (Kit’s Agent), Terence Stamp (Mind Head leader, Terry Stricter), Robert Downey Jr. (Jerry Renfro), Adam Alexi-Malle (Afrim), Kohl Sudduth (Slater); Runtime: 96; Universal/Imagine Entertainment; 1999)
“Martin and Murphy were never funnier …”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A funny spoof on Hollywood, scripted by and starring Steve Martin. Martin is Bobby Bowfinger, a down-and-out producer/director with no film credits under his belt who is a ruthless schemer, looking for any means to make his way into films. Bowfinger is currently teaching acting lessons for an exorbitant charge. When his dimwitted accountant and part-time receptionist, Afrim (Adam Alexi-Malle), writes a screenplay in 12 days entitled “Chubby Rain,” an action flick about aliens who come down in raindrops making them look chubby, Bowfinger is ecstatic that he’s found at last the script he has always been looking for.
Bowfinger gathers his ‘wannabe’ actor misfits together and promises them that if he gets the film financed, they will play a part in it. Bowfinger tells them that he has a power lunch with Jerry Renfro (Robert Downey Jr.) about the script. Renfro’s a top-producer and vintage car buff. When Bowfinger sits at the restaurant table next to Renfro, he pretends to be having a cell phone conversion with a big-shot Hollywood producer to attract Renfro’s attention. The phone he has is obviously not a cell phone, as a cord is dangling from it. He overhears Renfro mention to his luncheon companion how hot the action star Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) is and that by getting him in a film, there is a guarantee of financial backing. He then returns home to falsely tell his production team that Ramsey is in, and the film has been financed by Hollywood. He plans to use the $2,184 he saved since a child for such a rainy day, to finance the film on his own. The only one he tells the truth to is his cameraman Dave (Kennedy), who works as an attendant in the parking lot for the stars. Bowfinger’s ingenuous plan is to film wherever Ramsey happens to be, putting him into the film without his knowledge by hiding the crew and the camera.
“We’ve got to get a crew, and I want the best damn crew we can afford!” Bowfinger tells this to Dave as he collects 4 illegal immigrants at the Mexican border in Dave’s van, who are being chased by the border patrol. They have to learn from scratch what to do, as Bowfinger starts by teaching them how to clap a slate before the camera rolls.
Bowfinger delivers the script he wants Kit to do outside his mansion and gets into his limo by pretending to also be a member of the Mind Head group (that’s a meeting that Kit is going to). But, Bowfinger is unceremoniously tossed out of the limo when his lie about being a club member is discovered.
At the meetings in Mind Head, the members wear white pyramid hats. It’s a religious cult (similar to Scientology) headed by the sage-like guru Terence Stamp. It’s where Kit is told how to deal with his immediate problems of lusting after the Laker cheerleaders and how to handle his serious psychotic and paranoia problems by following Stamp’s coolly calculated therapeutic counseling. He has given Kit three rules to live by: “There are no aliens.” “There is no giant foot trying to squash me.” And, lastly, “I feel like I might ignite, but probably I won’t.” He is further told, K…I…T stands for ‘Keep It Together,’ which means keep Mr. Weenie in the pants.
Christine Baranski is Carol, the curious would-be actress who wonders why she never meets Kit on the set since it’s traditional to do so. Bowfinger assures her that this is the way Kit likes to work, it’s ‘cinema nouveau.’ Carol will scare Kit by approaching him in a restaurant, telling him about aliens. Kit will later relate to Stamp that she must have spoken to him in some secret white man’s language.
Slater (Sudduth) is the male star playing an alien and helps Bowfinger hold an audition for applicants trying out for a part Bowfinger charges $25 just to try out for, a part for which a newly arrived wannabe actress from Ohio, Daisy (Heather Graham), gets even though she can’t act. The ingenue then proceeds to scheme her way into getting a bigger part, by sleeping with those who could advance her career.
Murphy, in a dual role, plays Kit’s almost lookalike brother Jiff (except he has a constant dopey grin, wears braces, and wears thick nerd-like glasses). Jiff is happy to be hired as a double for Kit, as he just wants to be part of the picture and be recognized for his own talent even if it’s only as an errand boy. In one hilarious scene Jiff’s asked to cross a dangerous freeway as Kit’s double, as Bowfinger tells him that the drivers know what they are doing–they’re stunt drivers.
This movie about making a movie has the Hollywood phony la-la scene down pat and under Frank Oz’s sharp direction, the film gets all the laughs it can from its very funny satirical premise. Martin and Murphy were never funnier, and the supporting cast adds just the right ingredients to the comedy presentation. Even though most of the film does work, some of the comedy routines became tiresome as the film progressed–but not enough to spoil the lighthearted fun.
REVIEWED ON 4/6/2001 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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