Sep 14, 2011

Eddie Murphy in: Oscar Heist!

by Thomas Willett

I don’t claim to be a comedian, but I’ve decided to just set up a premise for you. Did you hear, Eddie Murphy is hosting the 84th Annual Academy Awards? This should only sound appealing to two groups of people: the impressionistic children who liked Imagine That and the cryogenically frozen group that never lived a day past 1989.

If you have pop culture in your blood, you are most likely groaning at this announcement. It’s true, my hopes were shaken when it was announced Brett Ratner would produce, but the storm that followed didn’t seem to be as predictable. Eddie. Murphy.

Now there’s a conundrum. After last year’s Oscars where the charismatic duo of Anne Hathaway and James Franco proved to not win over the audience, what makes us think Murphy will do much better? His only advantage? He’s won more awards, including the worst actor, actress, and couple for Norbit at the 2007 Razzies ceremony as well as Worst Actor of the Decade in 2009. Now THAT is charismatic. Imagine what brilliant comedy could possibly come from the man who once said:

Mr. Whale “Whale Ho!”
Rasputia: “Did somebody just call me a whale?”
Mr. Whale: “Yeah! And a Ho!”
- Norbit (2007)

At this rate, I am sure he is going to end up doing a job on par with the Teen Choice Awards. The days of high caliber seem rather far away. In truth, not all of his recent work has been bottom of the barrel, but for a man who was such an important part of comedy in the 80’s, it’s hard to imagine majority of audiences know him mostly as either Donkey in Shrek or the lead actor in the Adventures of Pluto Nash.

I’d like to believe Ratner when he says:
“Eddie is a comedic genius, one of the greatest and most influential live performers ever,” said Ratner. “With his love of movies, history of crafting unforgettable characters and his iconic performances – especially on stage – I know he will bring excitement, spontaneity and tremendous heart to the show Don and I want to produce in February.” - Brett Ratner in Deadline

But let’s be honest. Has Eddie Murphy been at all credible in the past ten years to deserve such praise? The most recognition he got was for Dreamgirls. Otherwise, he’s more than welcome down at the Razzies clubhouse to accept awards every other year along with Sylvester Stallone and Uwe Boll. I have seen the trailer for the Ratner/Murphy comedy Tower Heist, and while it looks okay, I’d imagine this will be just like Showtime and just take a quirky premise, have some funny parts, but make you wonder what a full attempt would’ve produced.

After all, I am very doubtful we’ll get this Murphy:

Yes, at one point, Murphy was very funny. This scene in Trading Places could be seen as a predecessor to Dave Chappelle’s lovable crackhead Tyrone Biggums. His aesthetics in Coming to America showcased the possibilities of special effects and make-up. He paved the way for African American comedians to be rude, very slapstick, yet funny. He eventually became one of the understudies to his own influence, and suffers from a streak of making movies where he’s racist to blacks, Chinese, and apparently has guff with fat people. He comes across as very mean spirited. At least his Trading Places co-star knew to move on to better things.

However, the main part that makes me doubt this as being successful is his relationship with the cast of Saturday Night Live, the show that gave him his fame and which he helped save from poor ratings. While he has hosted numerous times, he began to just grow distant from the staff, and chose not to contribute to Live From New York, an oral history of the show in which numerous cast members praise and hate upon him. This is possibly what lead to an absence at the Saturday Night Live15th Anniversary special where he didn’t show up, but there was promise of Eddie Murphy’s Entourage (including brother Charlie Murphy). It wasn’t a routine. It was just an entourage.

Maybe it’s because Murphy felt betrayed after David Spade said “Look children, a falling star. Make a wish, quickly” in reference to his waning career in the early 90’s.

But let’s be honest, if he gets offended over that, imagine the grief he’s going to get after hosting the Oscars. Even if he exceeds my expectations, there will be someone out there who hates it. Maybe he’ll walk out like he did when he lost the Oscar to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine. I just think he’s too insecure to host without bringing some personal baggage with him. Also, it seems hypocritical when you remember what he said about gay people during Delirious.

Possible baggage I assume that will follow him? In February, they are releasing a movie that they shelved a long time ago called A Thousand Words in which Murphy plays a man who only has 1,000 words to say before he dies. Thin premise that is up there with his most gimmicky films. I am personally thinking that it may stand a chance of getting the Razzies recognition and making him the first host to win a Razzies award and host the Oscars the next day.

I would love to be proven wrong and that Murphy has been rehabillitated to deserve a comeback. However, with his spotty past, I’d hate to imagine that he’ll go on the show and talk about how great he is and go on to bash anyone who ever dissed him. It feels very much his style, even though he has become more secretive about his feuds. Also, with Ratner producing, there’s a good chance that this will be more racist than you’d expect. I hope not and that they follow the FCC standards, but I am not entirely looking forward to Murphy’s opening monologue where he manages to insult Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris by being overtly Jewish. Just have to say, he’s no Don Rickles.

As someone who openly adores the Oscars like football fans adore every Super Bowl, I place my bets, grab nachos, and yell at my TV in praise as Ryan Gosling finally gets an Oscar win for Drive. I didn’t even think the Oscars were that bad last year. It’s about competition for me. In truth, I like parts of Murphy’s career, and since it’s not a four hour stand up routine, I think that maybe I can handle it, even though I worry that he’ll just break down and be a jerk like he was last time.

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