Murphy cannot save lackluster `Showtime' from falling flat

BY JENNY JELTES
Daily Arts Writer
Published March 18, 2002

One would expect a movie starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy to be - at least - a mildly entertaining comedy. But after sitting through "Showtime," the duo's first big-screen team-up, one might be surprised that it is indeed ...far worse than any expectations you might have had.

Describing the plot just makes this already poor film even worse, but in a nutshell, after undercover Detective Mitch Preston (De Niro) stirs media attention by shooting the lens of a news camera on national television, he is of sudden interest to a local broadcast television station, looking to produce a new reality cop show. Preston is roped into taking a part in order to avoid being sued for $11 million and losing his job.

"Showtime' is funny in the sense that it could be a mockery of all the other failed comedies before it. It has all the ingredients, and it tends to almost make fun of itself. For example, the case Detective Preston and his rookie cop sidekick Trey Sellars (Murphy) are working on involves tracking down a man who is responsible for dispensing a very dangerous and illegal type of gun all over the city, resulting in a big threat to the city's safety. Not a very interesting case for Preston, Sellars or the audience sitting in the theater.

The suspect, referred to as Vargas (Pedro Damian, "Collateral Damage"), cannot be proven guilty, therefore Sellars and Preston must work together to catch him in the act while also being followed by cameramen, because, remember, they are on national television.

De Niro was excellent in "Meet the Parents," but his comedic performance here is dismal. It just does not seem appropriate for his acting abilities. With an already cheesy script, a mismatch between the role and the right actor just makes the film even worse. Murphy, on the other hand, does a fairly good job with his part, and the only three amusing moments in the film are all due to him. At least he could sometimes be funny.

The main problem with "Showtime" is a lack of chemistry between any of the actors. The plot is artificial and lame and may remind you of a "Scooby Doo" type conflict and resolution. The big stars in the film, including Rene Russo, just didn't have their heads straight when deciding to do this film. Russo, who plays the producer of the cop show, "Showtime," doesn't seem to take her part seriously. Either she just couldn't master the part or she realized the lameness of it all, and instead, she decided to mock the "significance" of her role by just acting horribly ... Who knows.

This premise is doomed to fail. It is so shallow and too easily resolved at the end that even the several attempts at humor rarely have any hope.