There are only three possible reasons why Steve Martin has been in some incredibly shitty movies like "The Out-of-Towners," "House Guest" and "Sergeant Bilko." The first is that someone would kill him if he didn't. The second is that he had some big-ass electric bills to pay. The last is that he didn't give a flying fuck about us, the innocent audience who looked to him for an hour-and-a-half of relief from our miserable, insignificant little lives. I tend to think it was the third reason, and it will be hard to ever forgive Mr. Martin for being such a selfish prick. "Bowfinger" is a good first step in the forgiveness process, though. It's an honest attempt to make us laugh, and it succeeds pretty damn well.
Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) is a director with a dubious past. Many years ago, he directed such cheapo flicks as "The Yugo Story" and "Bucket of Blondes," but he hasn't worked in years. His part-time accountant writes a script, "Chubby Rain," a story about aliens who sneak onto Earth in raindrops, making the drops chubby. Because Martin is so desperate to get back in the game to direct a movie, and because this script is in his hands at this moment, he decides to make it before he has the funding or the stars. After the script is rejected by Hollywood's biggest name, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), Martin can't face those he promised roles to. So, he puts Murphy in the movie without his knowing it. He hires a band of illegal immigrants as his photographers and sound men, his long suffering friends as crew, and Heather Graham as the so-hot-I-wanted-to-crawl-up-on-the-screen-and-jerk-off-all-over-her hottie who will happily sleep her way to the top.
Murphy as Kit is a paranoid megalomaniac who needs the reassurance of a Scientology-like cult called Mind Head to get through every day and to keep him from showing his dick to the Laker Girls. To make it look like he's in his flick, Martin films his actors approaching Murphy in public places and saying their lines about alien love, which only feeds Murphy's insecurity and paranoia. He disappears into the bowels of Mind Head.
Since Murphy has disappeared, Martin hires a Murphy lookalike, also played by Murphy. This kid is Jiff, an immature, shy Burger King fry cook. It turns out that Jiff is Kit's brother and doesn't like living in his shadow. He's thrilled that the movie crew wants him for himself and to run errands, which he's good at, not realizing he is just a substitute for his brother.
When Murphy as Kit is released from Mind Head, he is still a high-strung freak. The film's crew's actions bring his paranoia to the boiling point during the filming of "Chubby Rain's" climactic scene, which has Murphy being pursued by a silver-suited alien in the trunk of a Buick Riviera's. He flips out at the same time as the cops figure out what Martin's up to and shut down the movie. Luckily, Martin has some incriminating footage of Murphy flashing little Eddie at the Laker Girls and he uses that as blackmail to win permission to use the footage. "Chubby Rain" is released to raving fans and Martin and Murphy (as Jiff) go on to a lucrative career making cheap Taiwanese action films.
There are a lot of things that work in "Bowfinger." The most surprising one is Murphy, who is actually doing something other than that super-annoying "cool" attitude bullshit. His role is incredibly self-deprecating and it reminded me that once upon a time Murphy wasn't just a big-ego hammy actor who loved fucking transvestites on Hollywood Boulevard. He was once fucking funny. I guarantee that he'll be nominated for one of those God Damn Oscar awards, but he won't win. That's how good he is. Jiff is a top-notch creation that Murphy actually tries to become. He would rather be a very good errand boy than successful because he looks like his brother. Of course, who wouldn't want to be the shy awkward man-boy who gets his first piece of boo from Heather Graham. This is a character you want to take home and protect (and maybe have mow the lawn).
The movie is best when it's being goofy. Some shit is so laugh-out-loud funny that I spilled the last of my popcorn down my pants and had to undo my belt to get it when nobody was looking (I was hungry, all right, so just get off my fucking back. I didn't know that little girl was looking at me.). To get a shot of Murphy looking scared as shit, Martin has an unseen dog in high heels follow him through a parking garage. The clicking of the heels sends Murphy screaming in terror. Murphy, as Jiff, has to run across Interstate 405 during rush hour, and his terror is real, just like when I almost got my finger stuck in the air compressor at work. And finally, the climax featuring the silver alien in the car trunk had me laughing so hard I forgot how annoying the guy sitting next to me was.
Unfortunately, the scenes work better than the plot. It is clunky and is pushed forward with plot devices that even the goateed Starbucks patrons in the screenwriting course at the junior college wouldn't get away with. The characters are unnaturally thrust into the funny situations. With the exception of Murphy and Martin, they are a bit less than fully developed, and the movie gets stale when it's not being silly.
"Bowfinger" also doesn't work as a satire of Hollywood. Steve Martin has always been funniest when he is making fun of himself, but his social criticism is obvious, heavy-handed and not funny. I laughed when the movie didn't take itself seriously and the scenario was absurd. I didn't laugh when it tried to change gears and make a statement about Hollywood.
The worst bit is the cheesy ending. "Chubby Rain" was guaranteed to suck ass because of how cheaply it is made, but in typical Hollywood fashion, it doesn't and the crowd at the premier loves it. To me, it would have been way fucking funnier and more of a satire if "Chubby Rain" flat-out sucked and everyone knew it, but Martin's Bowfinger became famous anyway, just because he had made a film. Hell, look at all the people that's happened to: Renny Harlin, Christopher Columbus, and that fucker who made "Baby Geniuses."
I've got three big fingers for "Bowfinger," a movie
that more than makes up for its shortcomings because it actually
made me laugh. But, Mr. Martin, if you're reading this, go all
the way to silly, like you did in your early flicks. Stop trying
to be relevant and just accept that funny shit is.