From The Producers to The Player, there’s no target Hollywood loves to satirise more than itself. This 1999 comedy, now being released on Blu-ray, is no exception, poking fun at everything going on in the film industry of its time through the story of Bobby Bowfinger, an enthusiastic but penniless film producer.
Bowfinger (Steve Martin, who also scripted the film) will stop at nothing to get his alien invasion movie made, even when the star he wants, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) flat out rejects him. His idea is to have Ramsey star in the movie without knowing he’s in it – by following him around with a hidden camera and having the rest of their cast walk up to him in the street and act out their scenes. The thing is, Ramsey’s already the paranoid kind, being a member of a Scientology-esque organisation called MindHead, and this scheme only further convinces the star that aliens are after him.
It’s a great premise, and one that plays out in very entertaining fashion, with some clever satire at the cults of both celebrity and Scientology mixed in with the surreal and zingy dialogue you’d expect from a Steve Martin script; “she had the personality of a ZIP code in Kansas”, Bowfinger says of a failed auditionee. A couple of the set pieces stop just short of being truly hilarious, but you’re never far away from the next laugh.
What really makes Bowfinger work is the performances of two comedy actors with very different approaches to their craft; Martin’s deadpan delivery of lines like “This film is only for Madagascar and Iran, neither of which follow American copyright law” makes Bobby Bowfinger a very watchable grifter, while Murphy’s over-the-top style perfectly suits the neurotic Ramsey. Plus, it wouldn’t be an Eddie Murphy film if he only played one character, and he gives an equally energetic performance as Jiff, the dorky Kit Ramsey lookalike drawn in to the movie. Many more laughs come from the film’s heightened and satirical side characters, including Heather Graham’s naïve young starlet, Christine Baranski’s pretentious veteran actress, and Robert Downey Jr.’s studio exec.
It’s not the most biting satire out there, nor is it the funniest comedy, but this good-hearted, zany take on the movie industry zips through its 97-minute running time and won’t fail to keep a smile on your face throughout.
Special Features: Featurette / Deleted Scenes / Outtakes / Trailer
BOWFINGER (1999) / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: FRANK OZ / SCREENPLAY: STEVE MARTIN / STARRING: STEVE MARTIN, EDDIE MURPHY, HEATHER GRAHAM, CHRISTINE BARANSKI / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 26TH