Bowfinger

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Bowfinger

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Bowfinger

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Hollywood hates itself. So much, in fact, that at least once a year, a movie appears simply to remind audiences just how much Hollywood hates itself. Last year, it was the execrable An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. This year, it's the feather-light Bowfinger, written by Steve Martin, directed by Frank Oz, and starring the high-profile team of Martin and Eddie Murphy. Martin plays an aging, down-on-his-luck producer in desperate need of a hit, something he thinks he's found in a science-fiction script he views as an ideal vehicle for an action-movie star played by Murphy. When the paranoid, egomaniacal Murphy turns him down, Martin begins filming him surreptitiously, employing an awkward lookalike (also played by Murphy) as a stand-in. Meanwhile, comic sparks fail to fly. As a writer, Martin has carefully designed his satire to skewer absolutely no one. (Typical example: Those who practice a religion clearly modeled after Scientology are shown, in the segment's sole joke, wearing silly hats. Ouch.) This would be fine if Bowfinger found other ways to be funny, but the laughs—most of them provided by Murphy in his misfit role—come slow and decidedly short of furious, when they come at all. As an actor, Martin seems bored, a tone at odds with the film's subscription to the John Candy school of film comedy: Keep things moving fast, and maybe speed alone will compensate for the lack of quality material. The appearance of entirely unearned sentimentality late in the film, in a scene right out of Ed Wood, only makes matters worse. Given Bowfinger's great premise, the fact that audiences have to be hungry for a good Steve Martin movie after a nearly decade-long drought, the promising pairing of Martin and Murphy, and Oz's general reliability, Bowfinger should have been much better. As it is, it's yet another example of the high-concept/low-substance Hollywood product it so carefully avoids criticizing.

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