Skip to main content

Gerard. Did you know your pops had a mushroom belt on?

Boomerang
(1992)

(SPOILERS) Eddie Murphy was trying to recover his footing in 1992. He’d experienced a couple of missteps, most notably the underwhelming reception of his self-penned, self-directed vanity project Harlem Nights and tired, desperate and unwanted sequel Another 48 Hrs (which one imagines Murphy must have agreed to do as an easy hit maker, but he even came up with the story). Neither came close to his run of 80s hits. Boomerang represented a reinvention, with Murphy as a romantic lead and essaying an actual character arc. But it only half works.

Part of that is down to Murphy, who as ever-watchable as he is, just isn’t Cary Grant. He’s closer to Jerry Seinfeld in the way he manoeuvres emotional territory, never quite comfortable (at this point anyway) with the bare acting required. Looked at now, Boomerang seems like a wild leap into the unknown for him, even with the comfort factor of SNL writers he knew and trusted – David Sheffield and Barry W Blaustein had previously penned Coming to America, going on to write both Nutty Professors, and are credited on the forthcoming Coming 2 America – and more of an ensemble vibe than he’d been accustomed to. Eddie’s in there, of course, but he barely gets a chance to be funny.

The other part of it is that the romcom premise never quite lands. Boomerang’s trying too hard with the lothario who has the tables turned device, such that Murphy’s Marcus Graham being treated as a toy boy, or a one-night stand, or having his feelings hurt or – in possibly Boomerang’s most on-its-head moment – given a sex scene where his climaxing is reverse gendered tend to forget to milk these scenes for laughs. They best they can come up with is mild bemusement. The picture feels essentially conflicted, unsure if it wants to subvert the male gaze or pay lip service to the same because it is, essentially, insincere.

Murphy picked Reginald Hudlin to direct, who had scored a couple of years previously with the low-budget House Party. He brought along Martin Lawrence and paired him with the always under-appreciated David Alan Grier – easily taking the honours in the comedians-as-proper-thesps stakes – as Murphy’s best buds (Chris Rock also shows up). Hudlin cited Annie Hall and His Girl Friday as influences, but I wondered how much When Harry Met Sally… inspired the best pal conversations. These run from attitudes to the opposite sex (Lawrence referring to women as bitches) to racism, to homophobia (Lawrence, of course) and homophobia apologia (Murphy’s stand-up history – in an attempt to dispel Grace Jones’ attentions, Marcus claims to be gay, but Boomerang then contrives a macho get-out with her assertion that he is lying. She can always spot a gay man). The oddest aspect is that Hudlin takes an age to inject any rhythm or form into the movie. The buddy conversations have evident chemistry between the stars, but they don’t play very well, and they aren’t very inspired or hugely amusing.

It isn’t until Murphy’s nemesis, his female mirror in the form of fellow advertising exec (and now his boss, thanks to a corporate merger) Robin Givens enters the scene that Boomerang begins to discover a flow, but still, it never feels assured in its tone or plotting. Givens, sly, confident and controlling, is exactly what Boomerang needs, even clearer with a quarter of a century distance and the Mike Tyson baggage divested. Then there’s Halle Berry in the tried-and-tested role of the real catch the protagonist doesn’t even notice until he does.

It’s quite a revelation to recall her in a “relaxed” early role, before she became all about steely posing as the likes of Storm and Jinx and… er, Catwoman. Berry and Murphy enjoy several solid scenes together, but they’re definitely ones where he’s allowing himself to mess around – with the kids she teaches, including a very of its time riff on the disappearing ozone layer, or professing his love for Star Trek: “Ain’t Captain Kirk the coolest white man on the planet?” – rather than espousing his sincere feelings; it’s notable that Murphy hasn’t gone there since. At least, unaided by prosthetics.

Consequently, the strongest evidence that Boomerang doesn’t really work is that the best material doesn’t feature Murphy, or only as an adjunct. Bebe Drake-Massey and particularly John Witherspoon are hilarious as Grier’s wholly over the top, rampantly sexual parents (just look at the scene where Grier’s parents arrive and Murphy’s clearly in awe of Witherspoon’s riffing, loving every moment of it). And Geoffrey Holder is pure dynamite as Nelson, the camp ad director with a penchant for suggestive fruit, and responsible for the show-stopping Strange (Jones’ character) perfume ad in which she gives birth to a bottle of the stuff. Jones is a good sport too, delivering a terrifying riff on herself (Eartha Kitt, meanwhile, is just plain scary).

It’s telling that Murphy had been away for two years, but Boomerang still made significantly less money than the generally derided 48 Hrs sequel. Credit to him for seeing he needed to change things, but it wouldn’t be until the second half of the decade, following commercial and or critical stumbles The Distinguished Gentlemen, Vampire in Brooklyn and the calamitous Beverly Hills Cop III that he hit the bullseye again with Sherman Klump. From that point, he was able to withstand frequent bombs thanks to remakes, sequels to remakes, and a certain donkey. And then he just disappeared. Until very recently. Boomerang stands as something of a curio as a result. 


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

So you made contact with the French operative?

Atomic Blonde (2017)
(SPOILERS) Well, I can certainly see why Focus Features opted to change the title from The Coldest City (the name of the graphic novel from which this is adapted). The Coldest City evokes a nourish, dour, subdued tone, a movie of slow-burn intrigue in the vein of John Le Carré. Atomic Blonde, to paraphrase its introductory text, is not that movie. As such, there’s something of a mismatch here, of the kind of Cold War tale it has its roots in and the furious, pop-soaked action spectacle director David Leitch is intent on turning it into. In the main, his choices succeed, but the result isn’t quite the clean getaway of his earlier (co-directed) John Wick.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my "back pain", Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine... Well, because it's awesome.

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Along with Pain & Gain and The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street might be viewed as the completion of a loose 2013 trilogy on the subject of success and excess; the American Dream gone awry. It’s the superior picture to its fellows, by turns enthralling, absurd, outrageous and hilarious. This is the fieriest, most deliriously vibrant picture from the director since the millennium turned. Nevertheless, stood in the company of Goodfellas, the Martin Scorsese film from which The Wolf of Wall Street consciously takes many of its cues, it is found wanting.

I was vaguely familiar with the title, not because I knew much about Jordan Belfort but because the script had been in development for such a long time (Ridley Scott was attached at one time). So part of the pleasure of the film is discovering how widely the story diverges from the Wall Street template. “The Wolf of Wall Street” suggests one who towers over the city like a behemoth, rather than a guy …

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Dude. You’re my hero and shit.

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was going to say I’d really like to see what Vince Gilligan has up his sleeve besidesBreaking Bad spinoffs. But then I saw that he had a short-lived series on CBS a few years back (Battle Creek). I guess things Breaking Bad-related ensure an easy greenlight, particularly from Netflix, for whom the original show was bread and butter in its take up as a streaming platform. There’s something slightly dispiriting about El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, though. Not that Gilligan felt the need to return to Jesse Pinkman – although the legitimacy of that motive is debatable – but the desire to re-enter and re-inhabit the period of the show itself, as if he’s unable to move on from a near-universally feted achievement and has to continually exhume it and pick it apart.

It always seems a bit abstract, doesn’t it? Other people dying.

Game of Thrones Season Six
(SPOILERS) The most distracting thing about Season Six of Game of Thrones (and I’ve begun writing this at the end of the seventh episode, The Broken Man) is how breakneck its pace is, and how worryingly – only relatively, mind – upbeat it’s become. Suddenly, characters are meeting and joining forces, not necessarily mired in pits of despair but actually moving towards positive, attainable goals, even if those goals are ultimately doomed (depending on the party concerned). It feels, in a sense, that liberated from George R R Martin’s text, producers are going full-throttle, and you half-wonder if they’re using up too much plot and revelation too quickly, and will run out before the next two seasons are up. Then, I’m naturally wary of these things, well remembering how Babylon 5 suffered from packing all its goods into Season Four and was then given an ultimately wasted final season reprieve.

I’ve started this paragraph at the end of the eighth episode, No One (t…

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

Don’t make me… hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m… hungry.

The Incredible Hulk (2008)
(SPOILERS) It’s fortunate the bookends of Marvel’s Phase One are so sturdy, as the intervening four movies simply aren’t that special. Mediocre might be too strong a word (although at least one qualifies for that status), but they amountto a series of at-best-serviceable vehicles for characters rendered on screen with varying degrees of nervousness and second guessing. They also underline that, through the choices of directors, no one was bigger than the franchise, and no one had more authority than supremo Kevin Feige. Which meant there was integrity of overall vision, but sometimes a paucity of it in cinematic terms. The Incredible Hulk arrived off the back of what many considered a creative failure and commercial disappointment from Ang Lee five years earlier yet managed on just about every level to prove itself Hulk’s inferior. A movie characterised by playing it safe, it’s now very much the unloved orphan of the MCU, with a lead actor recast and a main c…

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…