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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Bowfinger
Bowfinger
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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 18, 2000 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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In Short: Definitely worth a look on DVD.

The Movie:

Funny but instantly forgettable, Steve Martin stars along with Eddie Murphy in "Bowfinger", the story of a desperate director looking to make a major movie no-matter-what. It's written by Steve Martin in an attempt to goof on Hollywood, but the film unfortunately keeps walking up to the line to attack its targets, then suddenly retreats. It wants to go for the easy laughs only and that's unfortunate in a film that has great potential and tons of great possibilities with the material and it's unfortunate that the film chooses to be a sunny LA story, a silly Hollywood daydream.

When it walks that line though, "Bowfinger" has some hilarious moments. Murphy, as action "star" Kit Ramsey, says to his assistant, "we're trying to make a movie here, not a film!" Or a conversation where Martin's Bowfinger explains that every film, when you boil it down, costs a little over two grand. But for every joke that hits the target, there are a few that have little energy and feel underwritten- especially weak is an attempt at making a joke on Scientology. If anything, all of "Bowfinger" plays like a series of sketches where some episodes work, some fall flat; one joke works incredibly well, and the next one barely registers.

Performances are all over the map as well. Murphy is close to perfection as Kit Ramsey, parodying his star image wonderfully. He's also given some of the sharpest lines and scenes of the picture- he's got great lines as Kit, and some great scenes as Jiff, the nerdy look-alike that Bowfinger uses to play Kit in his movie. The plot itself- Martin's Bowfinger can't get Kit Ramsey to star in his film "Chubby Rain"(I won't explain the title, mainly because it's so absurdly stupid it's not funny), so he films the actor without him knowing works- but only for so long. Martin doesn't play Bowfinger quite right; he plays him more as a cartoon rather than someone gleefully confident that he can scam his way to making a film. He should have played the character similar to Dustin Hoffman's producer in "Wag The Dog", someone who looked at an absurd situation as normal, everyday reality. In "Bowfinger", we're given a fairly unbelievable situation and the cartoony way it's played only enhances our disbelief that anything like this could ever work.

The "cast" of "Chubby Rain" is a mixed bag as well; Heather Graham plays a midwestern girl a little too desperate to get into acting. She plays it blankly and it doesn't help that the character is so thinly written. She's a great actress, but this part seriously isn't a high point in her career. Christine Baranski plays the old washed up actress well, and has a few funny moments. Others include Jamie Kennedy, who barely registers. If anything, looking at the way the film's written, it's obviously meant for no one else but Murphy and Martin and the only one that's truly successful at playing the material right isn't even the person that wrote it- it's Murphy that plays off and exaggerates his star persona perfectly where Martin seems not crazy enough, and also a little too earnest.

As funny as some moments in "Bowfinger" are, they all seem predictable. It's best moments, although funny, aren't exactly unexpected(or not already given away in the film's trailer). It needs more moments that really throw some sharp jokes at the audience, such as when Murphy's Jiff character runs across an expressway at the command of Martin's Bowfinger. As funny as that scene is, where is Jiff for the rest of the film? The character seems like it's been edited down in a movie that feels incomplete as well. The audience laughs, but at what? The film seems like a series of light jokes and Hollywood location sight gags rather than a whole plot. The scene after scene of Bowfinger and crew stalking Ramsey is funny at first, but the scenes seem less and less inventive in the way that they go about catching the star on film and after awhile, it all seems to get repetitive. If the way they went about catching the star on film was a little more creative and a little more over-the-top, maybe it would all seem a little less tired as the film goes further. The film's rather unreal plot points(too many to mention, although my question about how the crew would shoot without permits on the streets of LA was weakly answered) tend to sink the film every time it begins to work.

It feels like director Frank Oz has muted the material- the film gives Hollywood a light, unoffensive smack rather than a full on goofy attack and that, if anything, is why "Bowfinger" seems so lightweight. The audience laughs, but the second I left the theater is the second I forgot about "Bowfinger", a comedy that tries to appeal to everyone and ends up not being nearly as sharp as it has the potential to be.


The DVD

VIDEO:
Good, but not great anamorphic transfer from Universal. The image is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and although the image is generally sharp, there are a few times when it looks slightly soft. When it does look sharp, it's passably sharp, it's not razor sharp. Colors are strong and nicely saturated, with no problems. Detail is good, but not great and black level is generally strong.

There are only a few small problems; stray bits of pixelation in a couple of scenes and a few small instances of shimmering. Other than that, this is a clean and pleasing picture. I felt the same way about this image that I did about Universal's last DVD release, Mystery Men; it's good, but not quite great.

SOUND: Pretty much the usual for a "comedy"; the surrounds are put to very limited use and when they do come alive, it's for pretty minor efforts. The score sounds excellent, natural and clear. For the most part though, the movie is focused "audio-wise" on the dialogue, which sounds clear and without problems.

MENUS:: Hilarious animated main menus that put the "crossing the highway" scene to use.

EXTRAS:
Commentary: This is a very interesting commentary from director Frank Oz that talks quite a bit about what isn't in the movie. He spends a lot of time discussing various tidbits and scenes that were cut out of the movie due to preview audiences not liking it or for the film to make more sense. Oz also devotes a good deal of time to talking about what it was like to work with the various actors, as well as some fascinating details about the filmmaking process. Oz talks a few times about how scenes were shot at different times and cut together seamlessly, for example. It's a well thought-out commentary that I found very entertaining. There are only a few short pauses and the director is energetic about sharing information on the film. Recommended.

Deleted Scenes:A couple of deleted scenes; the other opening and another very short scene. With how many scenes that director Oz talks about cutting or shortening in the commentary, it's unfortunate that there aren't more scenes included here.

Outtakes: A few minutes of hilarious screw-ups.

Spotlight On Location: A fairly lengthy behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, with plenty of interviews and looks at the making of the picture. While it does provide some interesting insights from the cast and crew, it doesn't really go too in-depth about the movie.

Trailers: Trailers for The Hurricane, Bowfinger, Liar Liar, EDTV and The Nutty Professor.

Also: Production Notes, Cast/Crew Bios, DVD-Rom material.




Final Thoughts Definitely worth a look; although not a perfect movie, definitely one of the funnier films that came out this past year.

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