For the second summer running, the once-mighty Eddie Murphy has his name above the title of one of the biggest flops of the season. This weekend, Imagine That limped out onto screens with a gross of just over $5m, in line with last summer’s stinker, Meet Dave. This is the same Eddie Murphy who was apparently enjoying a career revival off the back of his Oscar-nominated turn in Dreamgirls, and his subsequent, yet shit, box office hit, Norbit.
Where, though, can Eddie Murphy go next? Certainly it seems time to ditch the so-called family comedies that once helpfully lined his bank balance (Dr Dolittle, Nutty Professor), but now hammer nails into his career coffin. That said, next year he’s already got A Thousand Words lined up, although DreamWorks and Paramount must be looking for a way to get out of their contract. It doesn’t help that Brian Robbins, the man who helmed Norbit and the aforementioned Meet Dave, is calling the shots. Already in post-production, A Thousand Words is currently scheduled for between February and April next year, and it’s expected to be out of cinemas the week after at this rate.
But then perhaps, if he keeps failing to take risks, that’s what Murphy deserves. There are few of us who sat through his movies in the early 80s who wouldn’t suggest that Murphy is an incredible comedy talent, and even as late as 1999, he turned in an excellent performance in Bowfinger. But, outside of an animated movie, when was the last time Murphy was consistently funny on film? It certainly hasn’t happened this decade.
So here’s our plan to revitalise the career of the man who was once one of the comedy legends of cinema….
1. Play one character in a filmGranted, Murphy hasn’t been guilty of this in a while, but ever since he struck gold in Coming To America, he’s been keen to don the fat suit/drag/lots of make up to play umpteen characters in a single movie. This takes some talent. But surely, now, it’d be better if he focuses on just one character, and does that properly. We get the fact that he’s a multi-talented man who can do lots of characters and wear lots of make up. But enough now.
2. Start swearing againSeriously: these family comedies aren’t working, and you must know it. Go and watch a screening of The Hangover, and then watch how the audience are laughing a lot at it. You used to be the king of the genre, sir, and I hope in my lifetime I get to see the film where you return triumphant to it.
3. Watch Role ModelsThat little kid in that? You used to be that funny, Eddie. You should have talked to him on the set of Imagine That and picked up some tips.
4. Take some risksMurphy showed in Dreamgirls that when he moved out of his comfort zone, he could come up with something that won him both acclaim and dollars. And it also proved that he’s a good actor, too. Since then, he’s retreated into far safer pictures, and while his bank balance has felt the benefit, he still has to sit through weekends like last. When none of us were watching his new movie.
5. Ditch Beverly Hills Cop 4This film is, surely, not the way to go. Granted, it’s the last franchise you can call on if you need another paycheque – with the possible exception of Nutty Professor – but playing safe surely isn’t an option here. Be bold: realise that BHC 3 was crap, but if you want to do an action comedy, that’s great. We love you in action comedies. But BHC 4 is the safest, most boring way you can go. And John McClane you ain’t. If you must dig up an old film like this, give Nick Nolte a call, and make the 48 HRS sequel you should have done first time round.
6. Choose better directorsIt’s obvious, but still being missed. Brian Robbins may be a lovely man, and we’ve no ill-will towards him. But look at the two films you’ve made with him. There are clues there, Eddie. Also: Brett Ratner is not the answer, in case you’re wondering.
7. It’s okay to have a good film that flopsLooking back over Murphy’s career, it’s understandable why he picks family comedies so much, given that they – outside of Dreamgirls and the Shrek movies – give him his biggest hits. You have to go back to the mid-80s with Beverly Hills Cop 2 and Coming To America to find anything more profane that he made hitting $100m. But then his choices since haven’t included a small indie project, or anything of that ilk, and you wonder if that might give him a career shot in the arm. To take on a film that you know won’t hit, but might actually raise your acting stakes? Try it, Eddie. Not every film you make has to result in a big cut out of you in a cinema foyer.
8. Try stand-up againRe-connect with that live audience. Remember what it was that made you so good at this in the first place. You were one of the funniest men on the planet in your day, only you seem to have forgotten all about it. Please try and remember.
9. Choose better scriptsThis is the killer. It’s hard to think of another actor who has consistently chosen such bad material over the past decade or so, to the point where even the films that did hit – Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, Norbit – were tiresome pieces of tripe that you’d struggle to sit through once, never mind twice. Life isn’t a great movie, but you do suspect that once upon a time there was a screenplay behind it that made it worth a punt. At the very least, go in that direction. And avoid anything with a Roman numeral in it.
10. No more fatsuits.Ever.
We write all this as lovers of Eddie Murphy at his finest. We’d just like to see him anywhere near that point again…