As promised, at least to those who read my Boomerang Effect article, here’s a two part list of Eddie Murphy “motion picks”: 5 films that bombed, and 5 that are “The Bomb”!  This countdown comes in on the coattails of the release of Tower Heist, Eddie’s new Action Comedy which hit theaters Friday, November 4, ranking number two at the Box Office that opening weekend, and raking in nearly $82 million bucks worldwide thus far.

This list also comes in the aftermath of the “Ratner-Murphy Shakedown—and Out!” at the Oscars.  In case you haven’t heard, Tower Heist director Brett Ratner recently stepped down from his post as co-producer of the 84th Annual Academy Awards set for February 26, 2012.  And Eddie Murphy—Ratner’s “muse”—promptly followed suit, reneging on his agreement to host the classy, sexy, racy affair.  You see, Ratner made a gaffe at the Tower Heist premiere.  In fact, if you take the “fe” off the end of “gaffe”, then spell the rest backwards, you’ll know the word—or rather slur—that shook the Academy and Gay Rights Groups alike, leading to his hasty apology and abrupt departure.

If you ask me, I’d say Ratner simply suffers from an overexposure to the early work—and “filth-flarn-flarn-flith”—of his buddy pal (and perhaps imaginary Buddy Cop) Eddie Murphy.  Again, have you seen Eddie Murphy: Delirious (yet or lately)?!?

 

Bottom 5 Worst Eddie Murphy Films Ever

5. Daddy Day Care (2003) / Haunted Mansion (2003) / Norbit (2007)
OK.  I am fully aware that I am rounding out the bottom of the list with a three way tie.  This seems rather appropriate in light of the fact that this trio represents terrible times in the film career of funny-man Eddie Murphy.  Just terrible.  In Daddy Day Care, Eddie’s a laid-off “daddy” who decides to open up a Day Care Center.  [Insert lots of children, and tired old shenanigans here.]  The best part about this one is that Regina King (think Jerry Maguire, or lil’ Brenda Jenkins, from the TV Show 227, all grown up!) happens to be in it.  Haunted Mansion just goes to show why Eddie, best known for his “of filth” and uncanny impersonations, should never again make two “family-friendly films” in the same year.  Ever.  Scripted around an attraction at Disney theme-parks, general consensus (by way of rotten tomatoes) is that the film is, “neither scary nor funny.”  As for Norbit, the main problem is precisely that it is scary, rather than funny.

4. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000)
Despite the fact that Janet Jackson, aka Miss Jackson of U-Nasty—my Afrikan American Idol—herself co-stars in this movie, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, can save this sequel from making a film like Dumb and Dumber (1994) seem like a dramatic motion picture.  Sure, it’s pretty “phat” the way Eddie can literally play a whole entire family of fat folks; it’s just that getting this close to the Klumps this time around takes “potty humor” to an all-new low.  This is not to mention the fact that the scenes resemble good ol’ fashioned “Black minstrels”, reminiscent of our favorite Jim Crow era, Pancake Mixin’, Head Scarf-Wearin’ Sista, Aunt Jemima.

3. Best Defense (1984)
Technically starring Dudley Moore, with Eddie Murphy billed as “Strategic Guest Star”, this military movie tanked.  Bad.  So bad, that Eddie had no choice other than to make fun of the film while hosting Saturday Night Live soon after, calling Best Defense, “the worst movie in the history of everything”.  This means, in a sense, that Eddie was actually able to make fun of himself at one of the highest points of his career.  I’ll let you sit with that one for just a moment.

2. Beverly Hills Cop III (1994)
Honestly, the soundtrack is the only thing this three-quel had going for it.  With R&B singles like “The Place Where You Belong” by the group Shai (who I used to worship), a track by Terence Trent D’Arby, and even some gansta rap by Easy-E (R.I.P.), I’m surprised it didn’t fare well on the charts.  As for the film itself, it clearly was a shameless ploy to squeeze this money-making series—and the brilliance of Axel Foley—dry, minus most of the original Beverly Hills Cop crew.  It succeeded too, dispensing the humor and wit of a dry sponge, to the tune of over three-quarters of a billion dollars total revenue for all three Action flicks to date.  Though John Landis called Eddie a “pig” years after directing him in both Trading Places and Coming to America, I suppose even he had his own piggy bank to consider upon agreeing to play principal for this pathetic picture.

1.     The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
The year’s 2080, on a “lunar colony” called “Little America”, where Eddie plays a nightclub owner of a joint called “Club Pluto”…You know what, I can’t do this.  I’m literally getting sick to my stomach.  Does the plot, or rather $100 million ploy for cinematic attention, really matter?  Yes, I said 100 million $macker$, as in film budget.  And oh boy did this film flop.  Grossing just a hair over $7 million in theaters, it ranks dead last on a list of Eddie Murphy films, and rightfully so.  I mean, geezus, I see why Jennifer Lopez and Halle Berry turned down the role of Dina Lake!  (Sorry Rosario Dawson.  No. really, I’m sorry.)  In another rare and precious moment of self-deprecation, Eddie told Barbara Walters in an interview, “I know two or three people that liked this movie.” I know this was in jest, but really Eddie?  Were these “two or three” folks in fat suits, and wearing a whole lot of stage makeup too?!?  I’m done.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Imagine That (2009)

While the little girl is adorable, the film is far from “All That”.  As Eddie says himself in the November 10, 2011 Rolling Stone article Eddie Murphy: The Rolling Stone Interview, “…both the 27-year-old and the 48-year-old was like, ‘Why am I in Imagine That?’ The movie didn’t have a chance at the box office – it’s just me and this little girl and a blanket.”  As they say, hindsight is always 20-20…Imagine that.

Meet Dave (2008)

More space crap—I mean, Eddie plays a human space craft… (I think I’ve already said too much.)  Eddie continues to talk flops in his “break of silence” via Rolling Stone, “if I do something and I die in it, at least I took a chance.”  Chances are; anyone who watched Meet Dave did die a little—inside.

 

Top 5 Best Eddie Murphy Films Ever

5. Boomerang (1992)
Picture it.  New York City, in the early 90s.  Eddie Murphy plays Marcus Graham, a high powered advertising executive at a top firm.  Marcus is a smooth, suave, sophisticated, metrosexual brotha in his sharp business suits, shaped moustache and eyebrows, and heavily-applied makeup with an unnaturally orange hue.  (Note: Twenty years ago, there were still a whole lot of advancements yet to be made in the world of cosmetics for folks with a lot of melanin, aka Brown Skin.  Just take a glance down memory lane at the metamorphosis of Oprah Winfrey’s makeup—and makeover—over the years.)  Marcus Graham is also an insatiable womanizer.  (“Womanizer! Womanizer! Ohh! You’re a womanizer!”)  Enter Jacqueline Broyer, played shrewdly by Robin Givens, Marcus’s new boss—and maneater, (“She’s a maneater!”) ready to give Marcus a run for his run for his money—and manhood.  Enter Halle Berry, in what is arguably her “breakout role” as Angela Lewis, a wholesome womyn looking for authenticity and real love.  One of the best moments of the movie is when Angela calls Marcus out on his cheatin’ ways, yellin’ in the kitchen: “Love should’ve brought your ass home last night!” Enter Toni Braxton’s breakout song, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home”.  OMG, the entire soundtrack is on point, topping the R&B charts that year, with Babyface, Boys II Men, P.M. Dawn, A Tribe Called Quest, even Grace Jones!  Speaking of Ms. Jones, she played an impeccable self-parody as Strangé (the accent at the end makes her more “exotic”; less “strange”).  Other great performances come from the ever-purring Eartha Kitt (R.I.P.), Martin Lawrence, and Tisha Campbell before they starred together in his TV Show Martin.

As Andrew, my friendly grocer at Trader Joe’s said, “I can talk about Boomerang for half an hour.”  I completely feel you ‘Drew.  In fact, I just did.  The only reason this “Romantic Comedy” is not higher on this “Top 5 Side” of my list is because as much as I LOVE this movie, I know that it has not had the same impact on American society, and the world at large, as the following flicks…

4. 48 Hrs. (1982) / Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Surely, these two films are more than capable of standing alone on their own in this countdown—and beyond.  I superimpose them, so to speak, in this spot as they’re both groundbreaking films in the genre of Action-Comedy, involving cops and crooks, and a whole lot of badass-ness!  Eddie breaks into the film industry with a BANG in his 48 Hours debut, playing Reggie Hammond, a crook who winds up working alongside a cop (played by Nick Nolte) to catch a cop-killer.  Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut – Male aside, this film broken ground for being the first “Buddy Cop” film, for its rambunctious racial tensions, and for that famous, ball busting bar scene.  (Eddie enters an all-white bar with a cowboy hat, declarin’ in a fake Southern drawl “there’s a new sheriff in town!”)  A couple years later, Axel Foley comes on the scene, ditching Detroit’s toxicity for Beverly Hills’ palm trees in Beverly Hills Cop.  This time Eddie actually plays a cop from the start, a street smart detective staking out So-Cal in search of his best friend’s murderer.  Rising to bonafide international superstardom, Eddie received another Golden Globe nod for this role.  The flick itself became the biggest hit of 1984, receiving both Golden Globe and Oscar nods.  As the hit song from the soundtrack says, “the heat is—dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun—ON!” (By Glenn Frey; hey, you learn something new every day!)

3.     Eddie Murphy: Delirious (1983)
“I-I-I-I-ICE CREEEEAAAAM!!!”  If you read Boomerang Effect, then you know exactly where I’m going with this.  Seriously, though, this standup comedy film is classic.  Red leather suit notwithstanding, Delirious stands on its own, as a legendary outbreak from a Saturday Night Live (SNL) great and genuinely hilarious piece of genius from Eddie Murphy, merely a 22-year-old kid at the time.  It’s so raunchy (“these are the f*cking years!”), so clever (spot on impersonations of greats such as Bill Cosby), and so nostalgic (Eddie and his brother Charlie farting in the bathtub) all at once.  In addition to the Ice Cream bit, Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt mentions, “the old woman falling down the stairs: ‘Oh Lord, Jesus Christ, help me (please)!’” in The Rolling Stone Interview. While I usually forget about that particular portrayal of his aunt, and, as Eddie points out in the interview, the “old ladies” of today would probably protest, that sh*t is funny!  What, you ask, could be better that this?  Two more movies….

2.     Trading Places (1983)
What the hell did I know about classism, racism, and “gettin’ over on the man” in 1983?  I have no idea—as I was probably still wearing diapers—which is precisely why I can’t get over how much I adore this movie!  I’m smiling ear-to-ear just thinking about it!  Cult-classic to the max!  I love to see Eddie go from rags to rich, convict to “cultured”, two-bit scammer to successful schemer…It reminds me of the skit on SNL: The Best of Eddie Murphy where they put a bunch of beige makeup (and perhaps prosthetics) on Eddie to make him look like a white man, then place him in a bunch of situations, like at a bank asking for a loan, where the white lender tells him, “go on, just take (the money),” or on the city bus, where he witnesses “what happens after the last Black person steps off the bus”—a full on COCKTAIL PARTY of course!  Yeah.  This film, this moment, with the brilliant John Landis behind the camera, fellow SNL Veteran Dan Aykroyd as the “riches to rags” Louis Winthorpe III, and, as Landis said, a “young…and funny and fresh” Eddie Murphy as Billy Ray Valentine, is priceless.

1.     Coming to America (1988) 
Ode to the 17 year-old fellow GEMini I know who’s never before seen Coming to America (You know who you are, dude):  If lovin’ this film is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!  This movie makes me wanna grow a Jheri Curl Afro, let my Soul Glow, and say, like JJ, “Dy-no-mite!”  (Chances are, oh young GEMini, you know not of the “JJ” of which I speak either.  Do you?  Do you!?!?  I digress.)  To say that this film has changed my life would be the understatement of the 80s, and while that alone does not qualify it to be number one on this here list, it’s a good start.  So, as the story goes, Prince Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) from the Afrikan land of Zamunda (don’t bother busting out the map—the place is fictitious) journeys to America to find his princess, landing with his BFF Semmi (Arsenio Hall) in a place “fit for a queen”: Jamaica, Queens, New York City, of course!

 

As much as I love Eddie Murphy as Prince Akeem, it is the breakthrough in his ability to perform as, personify, and fully embody distinctly different characters in one single film that truly takes the cake. (“Let them eat cake!”)  In fact, it is Randy Watson (also Eddie Murphy), the lead singer of the church band Sexual Chocolate (Yes.), who first introduced me to the “Jheri Curl Mullet”, and for that I am forever grateful.  In addition to playing Clarence in the Barber Shop, if you look even closer, like REAL close, you’ll notice that Eddie, encouraged by the ingenious director John Landis once again, takes on another character in the same shop: a creamy-colored, old Jewish man named Saul.  “Akh-Haaa!”  Arsenio Hall’s got mad, multi-tasking talents too, also playing four characters (that we know of), including my favorite, Reverend Brown.  “Yesss-sah!”   With so many moments, and memories, the best parting message is the truest theme of the film: “Just let your Soooooooooooo…..oul Glow!!!” [Insert tear in eye from Jheri Curl juice.]

 

Honorable Mentions:

Harlem Nights (1989)

This is Eddie’s first and only effort as a director, in addition to him producing, and writing the script with the help of big brother Charlie.  Though it “won” Worst Screenplay at the 10th Annual Golden Raspberry Awards, the film is classic for starring three generations of comedic legends: Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, and Eddie Murphy.

Dreamgirls (2006)

Eddie won several awards including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, and was “this close” to receiving an Oscar in the same category for his “SOUL-full” performance of James “Thunder” Early.  (Dammit, Norbit!)

So, with the holidays upon us, and perhaps a lot of “free” time on your hands, you may wish to watch one of these flicks on the Top 5 side—again, or for the first time.  Maybe you’ll even consider watching something from the Bottom 5, just for shock value.  Or, maybe, just maybe, you’d prefer to hold out for the Nutty Professor Prequel, tentatively titled Nutty Professor III, supposedly set for an early to mid-2012 release date.  Yeah.  Suddenly, Tower Heist is sounding “Oscar-worthy” in comparison.