Bowfinger [1999]

Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Heather Graham, Christine Baranski, Terence Stamp
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 97 minutes

Filmmakers often remark that it's just so hard to make a bad picture that few would take on the challenge if they weren't so naive. Steve Martin's Bobby Bowfinger is cut from that pattern, one of those sweet, indomitable operators of Hollywood who seem to be descended directly from Ed Wood (of Plan 9 from Outer Space infamy). To resurrect his ramshackle existence, Bowfinger opts to film his accountant's sci-fi spectacular, Chubby Rain, about aliens invading in raindrops. The snag is he needs to attach action megastar Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), an actor so paranoid he counts the K's in scripts to uncover possible Ku Klux Klan influences. When his effort fails, Bowfinger hits on an ingenious scheme to film Ramsey without his knowledge, throwing his actors at the hapless star whenever he appears in public. Only Kit begins to believe he's being hounded by aliens for real, and runs hysterically to his guru (Terence Stamp) at a Scientology-clone group called MindHead, where people walk around in fine suits wearing white pyramids on their heads. Deprived of his star, yet not to be undone, Bowfinger hires a look-alike, Jiff (also Eddie Murphy), to fill in. The tone of the picture is sometimes flat, rather than deadpan, but that's nitpicking. The farce is quick and engrossing, and populated with terrific performances, especially by Eddie Murphy, whose dual role as Kit and Jiff showcases his character-building gift, and by Martin, whose Bowfinger, part con man and part would-be visionary, manages to capture your sympathies. Heather Graham's would-be actress cheerfully sleeps her way to the top like she knows she's supposed to, and Christine Baranski plays her shopworn method actor with myopic self-absorption. --Jim Gay

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