Friday, November 4, 2011

Top 5 Films Featuring Eddie Murphy




This list is in no particular order. These are just some of my favorite films that Eddie Murphy, the actor and one of the stars of the new film Tower Heist has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on his performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that he happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

This is not going to devolve into a "what happened to Eddie Murphy?" rant. It is all too easy to focus on his recent failures (if you call the past decade or so recent that is) but I tend to be more of an optimist when thinking about one of the greatest comedic actors of all time. It appears as though it is every comedian's dream to become an A-list dramatic actor at some point in their career and ditching their comedy roots. Sometimes it works out (Tom Hanks, Bill Murray, Robin Williams) and sometimes despite their successful attempts it doesn't (Jim Carrey, Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell). Eddie Murphy doesn't exactly fit into either of those categories though because he went a completely different route, he actually entered the family film market which seems just as strange a choice today as it did when he first went down that road (although it is my understanding that fatherhood had something to do with that decision). In any case, I don't tend to look at his recent work and hate the guy for it (it was his choice after all). I like to look back at the Eddie Murphy that put a smile on my face and had me dying from laughter all those years ago. This is my list of films that I look back at when I want to remember the good times, when Eddie Murphy was on top of the world. Back when Eddie Murphy was still the f**k you man!

As a quick side note since I know it will eventually come up, I did not include any of Eddie Murphy's stand up comedy films. In my opinion they belong in a category all their own and thus are not part of this list.

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1.



This was the last time I remember loving an Eddie Murphy film from beginning to end. He had made plenty of great films after it and some not so great but The Golden Child was the last time we got what I now consider classic Murphy. The film itself almost feels like a strange mash up between Beverly Hills Cop (his character here wasn't too far removed from Axel Foley) and your typical trashy fantasy flick. While the effects were good for their time they haven't aged very well, but thankfully what I love about it has nothing to do with special effects. Murphy was quite literally on fire here with his witty remarks, "I..I..I...I...I want the knife!" to his overall pleasant on screen demeanor. The story isn't anything to write home about either but once again that isn't really the point. The main concept that fuels the film is the idea of putting Eddie Murphy up against supernatural creatures and seeing how he reacts to the continuing strange events going on all around him and to say the results are hilarious would be a grave understatement. The dated effects are a little distracting but the comedy is timeless...all the man wants is a chip damn it!



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2.



The ultimate fish out of water scenario...at least one of the most successful attempts at the genre. There were a lot of familiar themes with Murphy's early career, create a basic and generic story structure and throw Eddie Murphy into it and see what happens (most of the ads for his films started with "Eddie Murphy is...". None were quite as successful (and popular) as Beverly Hills Cop though. Just the simple idea of putting Murphy's trash talking no nonsense cop in the middle of one of the most pristine and crime free cities in America was comedy gold but what really sold it was of course Murphy himself. This was his star making role, his comedic timing was at an all time high, "Put a banana in the tail pipe" and he nailed ever single dramatic moment that was called for. It is funny to think that after all these years he was never able to quite top his performance in this, not even the two sequels were very consistent with him often fluctuating between being to over the top in one film and too subdued in the other. One of the best films of its kind (if not the best) and the crown jewel atop Murphy's career.



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3.



This was the first film I ever saw Eddie Murphy in and I will be honest here, I wasn't too big a fan of it. The reason being that I was about 5 years old when it came out and despite the fact that I should have never seen it at that age I also didn't fully understand it too well. But as the years went on I warmed up to it and eventually came to understand just why it has been held in such high regard over the years. This was the first true buddy cop movie...despite neither character being buddies and only one of them actually being a cop. What truly makes this movie tick is the pairing of Murphy and Nick Nolte, the opposites attract mentality was in full throttle here and helped shape every buddy cop movie that came after it. Both actors played so well off one another that you truly believed they hated each other through the entire film. The only issue I still hold with the film after all these years is the somewhat derivative crime story that they are trying to solve (they are basically just looking for an escape convict) but the chemistry between the two actors and the situations they get themselves into provide plenty of entertainment regardless. Other than that though it still holds up relatively well and has quite a few classic Murphy moments that you won't soon forget, "There's a new sheriff in town and his name is Reggie Hammond!".



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4.



This may be my least favorite film on this list but it has quite a historic significance for Murphy. It was between The Nutty Professor and Trading Places (which I'm guessing the later would be the more popular choice) and I am still unsure if I made the right choice here but I gave the professor the leg up since I believe it was single handedly responsible for resurrecting the fledgling career of Murphy who was coming off a string of box office failures (Beverly Hills Cop 3 and Vampire in Brooklyn). It was the film that brought his career out of the depths of hell and it was also the last film that the actor played in that anyone seemed to care about. It also just so happens to be a remake of an older film that starred Jerry Lewis but at the time of its release remakes were not very common, they happened but were nowhere near as common as they are today. What made the film such a success both critically and commercially was that Murphy found that balance again. He perfectly juggled the more sentimental aspects of Sherman Klump and his attraction for a very young Jada Pinkett with the complete craziness of Buddy Love who was always on screen just long enough for you to crave more of his antics but left right when you were starting to get sick of him. Many predicted that this film was his launching pad back into greatness but what followed was akin to a resounding thud unfortunately. Luckily the film stands tall still to this day (don't even mention the sequel) and is yet another reminder of the talent that Murphy has as an extremely gifted comedic actor.



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5.



Yet another fish out of water scenario for Eddie Murphy to sink his teeth into. Unlike his previous films though this one has a strange footnote with it. Eddie Murphy is the least funny person in this entire film, and I think that was on purpose. He had the difficult task of playing the straight man while everyone else around him got to act as crazy as possible.When I think back on the film and all the funny moments it contains I can't really recall any one scene that was funny because of Murphy. You have the Soul Glo commercial and the running gag with the greased up hair (something that is made even funnier now looking back at the 80s), Arsenio Hall as the bumbling and spoiled servant, McDowel's fast food restaurant which is only different from McDonald's only because its logo has golden arks instead of golden arches and one of the greatest bands of all time, Sexual Chocolate. Actually, I take back what I said about Murphy not being the funny man in the film, sort of...he once again plays multiple roles (one as the lead singer to the band and the other as an unrecognizable Murphy as an old white Jewish man), but as the main character Akeem he is more or less the guy driving the story instead of reacting to it. This is the one film on this list that isn't here because of Murphy but more because it is just a great movie in general. If you haven't seen it then I suggest you check it out as soon as possible. Plus you get to see a very very early screen appearance by Samuel L. Jackson!



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Reactions:

2 comments:

Brian said...

no Trading Places?

David Weaver said...

I picked The Nutty Professor over it (which you would have found out if you actually read what I wrote).

It was close but I chose the professor of that one.

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