At the Movies: ‘Bowfinger’
August 11, 1999
What a marvel Steve Martin is. The onetime wild and crazy guy has already contributed mightily to screen comedy. In recent years he has also written an acclaimed play, ”Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” and put together a book of his magazine pieces, ”Pure Drivel.”
Now he has written a demented comedy, ”Bowfinger,” in which he co-stars with Eddie Murphy. There hasn’t been so much inspired madness on the screen since the Marx Brothers.
You would expect Martin to provide a fabulous role for himself, and he has. Bobby Bowfinger is a producer-director on the lowest rung of the Hollywood ladder.
He is so phony that he wears a detachable pony tail. He will do anything, legal or otherwise, to put together a movie deal. You think ”The Blair Witch Project” had a tiny budget? Bowfinger could shoot a feature for one day’s cost of that movie.
Bowfinger finds inspiration in a script written by an Iranian accountant (Adam Alexi-Malle) about aliens who fall to earth in raindrops. He gathers a cast of hangers-on who are willing to work for nothing, plus an assistant (Jamie Kennedy), a studio gofer who knows how to sneak out film equipment.
Still, Bowfinger needs a gimmick.
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His brainstorm: film a top star in his daily comings and goings and work them into the movie. He chooses Kit Ramsey (Murphy), an action star so insecure that he requires the domineering of a New Age guru (Terence Stamp), who counsels celebrities while picking their pockets.
By chance, Bowfinger encounters Ramsey’s dim-bulb brother Jiff, who bears enough resemblance to double for Kit (Murphy plays this role, too).
The real merriment comes with the surreptitious crew’s efforts to film Kit Ramsey without his knowledge. Frank Oz who started with the Muppets and graduated to ”Little Shop of Horrors” and ”Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” stages these chases with the skill of a Mack Sennett.
Martin delivers a flawless performance as the ultimate con man: He could sell 76 trombones to Harold Hill. Murphy is at his antic best, alternating between fury at being pestered and terror that Bowfinger’s actor-aliens are really out to destroy him.
The two stars are surrounded by a brilliant array of oddballs: Heather Graham as a country girl determined to achieve stardom by sleeping with the right people; Christine Baranski as a vastly untalented grande dame; Kohl Sudduth as a self-inflated actor.
Oz delivers this nonstop foolishness at a compact 95 minutes, a perfect length for farce.
”Bowfinger,” a Universal Pictures release of an Imagine Entertainment production, was produced by Brian Glazer. Rated PG-13 for some adult material.