The NY Magazine website have run a rather good article on The Ten Greatest Multiple Role Performances. There's no arguing with the selection of performances at all, but there is a problem with some of the write-ups, or at least one in particular. for some reason, the writer of the piece gets rather excited when discussing the fine film Bowfinger, declaring it to be Eddie Murphy's greatest ever role.
woah there, fella! sure, Bowfinger was rather funny (the road-crossing scene springs to mind), but Eddie's greatest ever? methinks not....
Eddie Murphy is rather fondly thought of by us film fans. he, like Billy Connolly, appears to "get away" with streams of profanity on the basis that "well, it's Eddie". he has moved into more family-oriented films of late, although i see he is due to appear in a Richard Pryor biopic soon. that probably won't be family viewing but, if done right, probably will be the film that he will see as his greatest work.
in the mean time, and off the top of my head, here are 5 classic Eddie performances which are better than Bowfinger. if for some obscure reason the writer of the NY Mag article is reading this, i can only assume you have never seen the ones listed below; go see soon!
1. Trading Places
Eddie's second (in an official sense) film, and still the funniest film he has ever made. that's easy to say, because it was the funniest film in the career of anyone and everyone involved. Trading Places is the best comedy to come out of the 80s, and probably has a place in the top ten of all time. make that top five.
as Billy Ray Valentine, Eddie is nothing short of brilliant. his transition from street living hustler to Wall Street "master of the universe" for the sake of a bet is a stunning slice of acting, played as comically straight as possible. he stole the show from each and every established actor in this film and quickly established himself on the mythical "A" list. this status was of course cemented by the second film on this list.....
2. Beverly Hills Cop
wow, talk about era defining! if on TV the excellent Miami Vice captured the designer style, sleaze and sound of the 80s, then Beverly Hills Cop did it for film.
the film itself was intended for Sylvester Stallone, who for a variety of reasons dropped out. the fact that Axel Foley was written for him often shines through in the more dramatic scenes, fleshed out by some Eddie humour.
this is the film that showed Eddie as being considerably more than a foul-mouthed funnyman. Beverly Hills Cop showed Eddie Murphy off as a talent and an actor of note, as well as being bankable - the remainder of the cast were quality character actors, Eddie had to carry this one to box office success with his rapidly growing name alone.
3. Coming To America
with fame came freedom for Eddie - rather than being cast in roles, he was able to pursue film ideas that interested him. whilst this didn't always work out (The Golden Child springs to mind), when it did the results were/are spectacular, as is the case in Coming To America.
many are confused as to why this film wasn't considered as Eddie's best "multiple role" film. the answer is that it's rather more controversial than the selected Bowfinger. beyond being a rather funny "fish out of water" film, Coming To America was a subtle yet unmistakable dig at the prevailing way in which black American families were presented at the time - in particular in the often criticized The Cosby Show, often seen as little more than the story of a white family with black actors and actresses cast. there's also the infamous lawsuit against the film which tarnished it for many.
controversies aside, this fish out of water, rom-com, feel-good or whatever cliche you wish to give it film is a comedy gem, showing off Eddie at his best.
4. The Distinguished Gentleman
this one isn't perhaps an immediate or obvious choice, but if you stop to recall the film, or even better re-watch it, you'll see why i included this one here. and, of course, if you have not seen this film, well, you could do an awful lot worse than check it out.
this film rarely strolls into the realm of laugh out loud, but that's why it's on this list as an outstanding performance. the film works as a rather subtle social commentary on how politics and big business works in the "real" world, albeit in a simplified manner. Murphy's performance as a con man who at first tries to take advantage of "the system" for his own pocket but soon finds himself on the brink of being consumed by it was an impressive turn. stripped of foul jokes and visual props, Eddie Murphy shines through with a solid acting performance, one that deserves a good deal more credit than it gets.
all too often you get actors and actresses (sorry, i don't do this "male and female nonsense") signing up to voice animated films as it is, in their eyes, "easy money" - just turn up, read a few lines, pick up cheque, go home. every now and then, though, you get such a film with a good, solid "voice acting" performance that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Eddie's efforts as the Donkey in the much loved Shrek is one of the finest examples you will get.
for many, in particular with regards to the first film, Eddie Murphy's Donkey became the firm favourite, outshining the supposed "main characters" voiced by Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz. Donkey is the one that you laughed at and fell in love with, and it's all down to the astonishing, wonderful voice (and personality through it) Eddie gave to the character. just about every other character you could imagine with another actor playing; this with Donkey is impossible.
well, there's my view on Eddie Murphy performances better than his one in Bowfinger, not that there was anything wrong with the film. i expect to get taken to task for not including two films - Dreamgirls and 48hrs. in respect of the former, i haven't seen it and thus can't comment; with regards to the latter it was an OK film, but performance wise it was rather closer to his excellent stand-up routines than it was to any of the five films i have named.
agree or disagree, comment away if you so wish!!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!