Movies about movies are usually an iffy proposition. Too often they're overly self-indulgent or too overloaded with inside jokes. But Bowfinger finds just the right tone -- it's the best send-up of Hollywood since The Player.
Steve Martin, who also wrote the script, plays the title character, Bobby Bowfinger, a down-on-his-luck wannabe producer on the fringe of Hollywood. His plan: Make a big movie with the biggest action star in town, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). The only problem -- Kit won't be in the movie. But Bowfinger has a scheme. He'll follow Kit around town with a hidden camera and have his actors walk up to him and say their lines. He's aided by a Kit lookalike, named Jiff (also Murphy). It's a hilarious premise that makes for several funny sequences. And the idea doesn't get old as the film plays out.
Bowfinger also tries to con his small crew by convincing them that Kit is a willing participant. It's not that he's such a good liar, it's just that his actors are so desperate for stardom, they allow themselves to be hoodwinked. Director Frank Oz could have ridiculed these characters, but instead only pokes gentle fun. Bowfinger ends up being a love letter to the spirit of independent filmmakers and people struggling to live the Hollywood dream.
Murphy, in a dual role, does some of the best work of his career. As Kit, the spoiled Hollywood star, he gets a lot of laughs at the expense of his own image. As Jiff, he creates one of the most memorable screen nerds ever. Murphy has often played multiple characters in a single film, but the difference here is that there's minimal make-up involved in separating the two personas. It's a real credit to Murphy's performance that you never have to think about which character he's supposed to be playing in a particular scene.
The rest of Bowfinger's crew also gets lots of laughs. The Shagadelic Heather Graham plays a seemingly innocent aspiring actress who turns out to be anything but innocent. Christine Baranski is also great as an aging, talentless thespian. And Jamie Kennedy shows how his film student geek from Scream would end up if he ever made it to Tinseltown.
But moreover, Bowfinger is an inspired satire of both the Hollywood system that makes it so difficult for the little guy to make a movie -- and the little guys who use guerrilla tactics to subvert that system.
(c) Copyright 1999