by Stephen Notley
Sometimes, when you've reviewed a lot of movies, you can feel a little jaded. You've seen it all, way too many times, and so you just sit there, watching another lame-ass flick, rolling your eyes, even as titters and the occasional guffaw rumble through the theatre around you.
So it is with Showtime, the new cop-buddy movie featuring the unbeatable comedy stylings of Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro. Clearly, other people seemed to like this movie, but godammit, this shit is just not funny.
The idea here seems to be to take a playful look at the cliches of cop buddy movies by refracting a cop-buddy through the prism of a hey-you're-on-TV movie. So, De Niro plays a L.A. police detective. Rene Russo plays a TV producer who wants to follow him around for a reality-cops show. And Eddie Murphy plays the beat-cop/would-be actor who gets to be De Niro's partner.
In capable hands, maybe this concept might have worked, but here it's just tired, tried, tired. It's like watching the fourth instalment of an already-exhausted franchise movie. There's no snap or liveliness to any of the shtick; the movie seeks to send up cliches, but it just perpetuates them instead. "Police work isn't like what you see on TV," De Niro informs us in the opening scene, but Showtime is just like what we've seen on TV, millions of times.
Not that there aren't jokes. Here's one: Rene Russo brings a dog over to De Niro's apartment to make him "friendlier" to the audience. As De Niro complains, the dog snuffles around in a flower pot. Russo says that De Niro should like the dog because "he's a police officer... he's a drug dog." At that point the dog looks up and there's white powder all over its nose. *Get it? It's funny because it's a drug dog and it looks like it's doing drugs!*
Or how about: Eddie Murphy talks into the private camera for sharing thoughts, and rambles on about how he'd like to be partnered with "Wesley Snipes, or a Wesley Snipes-type. Wesley Snipes-type. Snipes-type." *Get it? "Snipes" and "type" sound kind of alike, and if you say them both over and over again it's funny!*
Or: Eddie Murphy drives into the police parkade with his brand-new TV-bought car, and James Brown's "I Feel Good" plays on the soundtrack. *Get it? It's funny because*... dammit, it's *not* funny, even if the person sitting next to me howled her fool head off.
Showtime just fails, fails as a movie. Like, for instance, usually there's some kind of point, some kind of thing the main character learns or goes through, even if it's just "the story of a cop who learned to love being on TV." Not here, though. Too tired. Or usually, in a good movie, there's some attention paid to secondary characters, some attempt to bring them to life. Nope again. Okay, yes, Shatner's in it, but only for seconds, and it just ain't enough.
Eddie Murphy, he's a funny guy. True, he's not exactly edgy these days, what with the family-friendly franchise movies he's been making, the Doolittles and Klumps. But it's big money, and who can fault him for making these films? Showtime just seems like an inconsequential accident for him. But De Niro... Yes, he's a great actor. But who decided he was comedy gold? Where did that come from? Is it funny to see him parody himself, or just sad?
To be fair, though, I'll give De Niro credit: he spends this whole movie
with an unchanging, why-the-hell-am-I-putting-up-with-this attitude, and
man, I felt it. I lived it. It was real. This movie blows.