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.

Popular posts from this blog

This risotto is shmackin’, dude.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 1 (SPOILERS) I haven’t had cause, or the urge, to revisit earlier seasons of Stranger Things , but I’m fairly certain my (relatively) positive takes on the first two sequel seasons would adjust down somewhat if I did (a Soviet base under Hawkins? DUMB soft disclosure or not, it’s pretty dumb). In my Season Three review, I called the show “ Netflix’s best-packaged junk food. It knows not to outstay its welcome, doesn’t cause bloat and is disposable in mostly good ways ” I fairly certain the Duffer’s weren’t reading, but it’s as if they decided, as a rebuke, that bloat was the only way to go for Season Four. Hence episodes approaching (or exceeding) twice the standard length. So while the other points – that it wouldn’t stray from its cosy identity and seasons tend to merge in the memory – hold fast, you can feel the ambition of an expansive canvas faltering at the hurdle of Stranger Things ’ essential, curated, nostalgia-appeal inconsequentiality.

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

Is this supposed to be me? It’s grotesque.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) (SPOILERS) I didn’t hold out much hope for The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent being more than moderately tolerable. Not so much because its relatively untested director and his co-writer are mostly known in the TV sphere (and not so much for anything anyone is raving about). Although, it has to be admitted, the finished movie flourishes a degree of digital flatness typical of small-screen productions (it’s fine, but nothing more). Rather, due to the already over-tapped meta-strain of celebs showing they’re good sports about themselves. When Spike Jonze did it with John Malkovich, it was weird and different. By the time we had JCVD , not so much. And both of them are pre-dated by Arnie in Last Action Hero (“ You brought me nothing but pain ” he is told by Jack Slater). Plus, it isn’t as if Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten have much in the way of an angle on Nic; the movie’s basically there to glorify “him”, give or take a few foibles, do

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws , there’s Star Wars , and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws ’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy , to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “ more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie ”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “ mainly boring ”. Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies.

Watership Down (1978) (SPOILERS) I only read Watership Down recently, despite having loved the film from the first, and I was immediately impressed with how faithful, albeit inevitably compacted, Martin Rosen’s adaptation is. It manages to translate the lyrical, mythic and metaphysical qualities of Richard Adams’ novel without succumbing to dumbing down or the urge to cater for a broader or younger audience. It may be true that parents are the ones who get most concerned over the more disturbing elements of the picture but, given the maturity of the content, it remains a surprise that, as with 2001: A Space Odyssey (which may on the face of it seem like an odd bedfellow), this doesn’t garner a PG certificate. As the makers noted, Watership Down is at least in part an Exodus story, but the biblical implications extend beyond Hazel merely leading his fluffle to the titular promised land. There is a prevalent spiritual dimension to this rabbit universe, one very much

Whacking. I'm hell at whacking.

Witness (1985) (SPOILERS) Witness saw the advent of a relatively brief period – just over half a decade –during which Harrison Ford was willing to use his star power in an attempt to branch out. The results were mixed, and abruptly concluded when his typically too late to go where Daniel Day Lewis, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro had gone before (with at bare minimum Oscar-nominated results) – but not “ full retard ” – ended in derision with Regarding Henry . He retreated to the world of Tom Clancy, and it’s the point where his cachet began to crumble. There had always been a stolid quality beneath even his more colourful characters, but now it came to the fore. You can see something of that as John Book in Witness – despite his sole Oscar nom, it might be one of Ford’s least interesting performances of the 80s – but it scarcely matters, or that the screenplay (which won) is by turns nostalgic, reactionary, wistful and formulaic, as director Peter Weir, in his Hollywood debu

What’s so bad about being small? You’re not going to be small forever.

Innerspace (1987) There’s no doubt that Innerspace is a flawed movie. Joe Dante finds himself pulling in different directions, his instincts for comic subversion tempered by the need to play the romance plot straight. He tacitly acknowledges this on the DVD commentary for the film, where he notes Pauline Kael’s criticism that he was attempting to make a mainstream movie; and he was. But, as ever with Dante, it never quite turns out that way. Whereas his kids’ movies treat their protagonists earnestly, this doesn’t come so naturally with adults. I’m a bona fide devotee of Innerspace , but I can’t help but be conscious of its problems. For the most part Dante papers over the cracks; the movie hits certain keynotes of standard Hollywood prescription scripting. But his sensibility inevitably suffuses it. That, and human cartoon Martin Short (an ideal “leading man” for the director) ensure what is, at first glance just another “ Steven Spielberg Presents ” sci-fi/fantas

Get away from my burro!

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) (SPOILERS) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is beloved by so many of the cinematic firmament’s luminaries – Stanley Kubrick, Sam Raimi, , Paul Thomas Anderson and who knows maybe also WS, Vince Gilligan, Spike Lee, Daniel Day Lewis; Oliver Stone was going to remake it – not to mention those anteriorly influential Stone Roses, that it seems foolhardy to suggest it isn’t quite all that. There’s no faulting the performances – a career best Humphrey Bogart, with director John Huston’s dad Walter stealing the movie from under him – but the greed-is-bad theme is laid on a little thick, just in case you were a bit too dim to get it yourself the first time, and Huston’s direction may be right there were it counts for the dramatics, but it’s a little too relaxed when it comes to showing the seams between Mexican location and studio.

If that small woman is small enough, she could fit behind a small tree.

Stranger Things Season 4: Volume 2 (SPOILERS) I can’t quite find it within myself to perform the rapturous somersaults that seem to be the prevailing response to this fourth run of the show. I’ve outlined some of my thematic issues in the Volume 1 review, largely borne out here, but the greater concern is one I’ve held since Season Two began – and this is the best run since Season One, at least as far my failing memory can account for – and that’s the purpose-built formula dictated by the Duffer Brothers. It’s there in each new Big Bad, obviously, even to the extent that this is the Big-Bad-who-binds-them-all (except the Upside Down was always there, right?) And it’s there with the resurgent emotional beats, partings, reunions and plaintively stirring music cues. I have to be really on board with a movie or show to embrace such flagrantly shameless manipulation, season after season, and I find myself increasingly immune.