With the current Eddie Murphy 'Oscar Host' resurgence being shout loud and proud over the net, I felt it was time to both sing the praises and highlight the flaws in the work of the man who dared to channel a grown-up Buckwheat. This list is not the collective view of the Starpulse clan, but rather the sole opinion of yours truly and I’m pulling no motion picture punches on this one. I’ve put together a list of my top five best Murphy movies to ever grace the silver screen with their comedy, action and unforgettable Eddie zeal. But I’ve also included a list of five of the most horrible, detestable and downright atrocious excuses for flicks that simply scream ‘easy payday’ for the now lazy superstar. (I want my money back for these Eddie!) And there’s no room on this list for animated adventures (my rule - it’s gotta be live action!) or flicks where Eddie’s good, but the movie lacks (meaning "Dreamgirls" is out!) – this is 100% pure critical cinematic dissection. So sit back and let me take you on my opinion of a walk down memorable (and not so memorable!) Murphy lane with my...TOP FIVE BEST/WORST EDDIE MURPHY MOVIES.
1. "Beverly Hills Cop"
While I admit this isn't Eddie’s funniest outing, it is his best bar none. But if the seemingly ego-driven star thinks he did this one on his own, think again. A magical mixture of action, comedy and drama, the original Cop had a ton of talented hands in the pot that made the slow simmering cinematic stew savory. Early Simpson/Bruckheimer handling, Harold Faltermeyer scoring, Pointer Sisters singing and even Judge Reinhold and John Ashton sparring were just a few of the elements that made Cop crisp. But in the end it was the PAIRING of talented Director Martin Breast (a master of dramatic infused comedy – see "Midnight Run!") and an accepting of suggestion young and budding Eddie Murphy that made the flick shoot to the top. Take heed – comparing rumored Cop 4 director Brett Ratner and Breast is like the difference between apples and oranges...and one is distinctively rotten.
2. "48 Hrs."
Again, a match of good story, chemistry between co-stars and an ample action helmer (see a trend here Eddie?!) makes Murphy’s debut a tense and terse comedic wonder. Not only was Nick Nolte’s gruff and tough cop a memorable dynamic heavy (to girlfriend Annette O’Toole - 'I make you feel good, you make me feel good – what the hell more do you want from a guy?'), but pairing him with the slick and slippery Murphy (the bar scene is unforgettable!) was a stroke of genius. Add in some early James Remar bad guy and dynamic direction ala Walter "Johnny Handsome" Hill and you got the start of a beautiful (and fist flying!) cop/criminal friendship.
3. "Trading Places"
This one played out more like Murphy’s days at 'Saturday Night Live,' when he was truly hungry and willing to do anything to get a laugh. As big grinning conman Billy Ray Valentine ('Capricorn!'), Murphy almost seemed prepared to drop trousers if need be to keep the comedic train chugging. (And co-star Dan Aykroyd seemed fully prepared to do the same!) Furthermore, it marked the first pairing of "An American Werewolf In London" director John Landis with Murphy (a collaboration that began to sour and produce lackluster results in future films when Eddie grew high on the horse!) and the two seemed destined to become the De Niro/Scorsese of balls out comedy. But alas, it was not to be early Murphy fans, as ego is a two-headed monster – much like the memorable Jamie Lee Curtis two that helped give "Trading Places" a ‘firm’ place in high-concept history.
4. "Coming To America"
While not as down and dirty as the previous Landis/Murphy outing (see above), this one is saved by clever co-stars and a talented make up man with timing. As Prince Akeem, a rich man looking for something other than a trophy wife, Eddie is decent, but seems more pre-occupied with his hair being perfectly quaffed then being funny. Fortunately, not only did Landis assemble folks who brought killer comedy at any embarrassing price (see Arsenio Hall, Eric 'greasy hair' La Salle and even John 'McDowell’s' Amos!), but also brought Werewolf alum Rick Baker to create new faces for both Hall and Murphy. THIS is where the old Murphy (and not just the old guy in the barber shop!) rears his finest comedic head in more ways than one. (Three to be exact!) Learn a lesson and listen to the Landis!
5. "The Golden Child"
Only the comedy genius of a seemingly riffing young Eddie and the filmmaking balance prowess of the underrated Michael Ritchie (see "Fletch" and "Diggstown!") could take the dramatic story of a Tibetan Golden Child being kidnapped and infuse it successfully with base humor ala Murphy as the 'chosen one.' As cocky leather beret wearing Chandler Jarrell, Murphy does come off as smug, but it works wonders in a film that has him playing the straight man opposite many mystical and otherworldly elements. (Plus I adore when he kisses 'sweet brother Numpsi' Charles Dance, who’s actually a demon for the devil!) I won't lie - this one is most assuredly a guilty pleasure, but is a pleasure nonetheless.
1. "Meet Dave"
Did Eddie just need the paycheck or did he bump his head on the set of the previous unfunny "The Haunted Mansion?" Never have I witnessed such an appallingly unfunny, trite and unpleasant film from a man whom I once considered a comedic God. (And I sat through "Daddy Day Care!") As multiple Dave’s (a shell, a crew working inside the spaceship shell, ect, ect.) you would think that one Eddie version might be humorous merely by accident – no such luck. And who would have thought that under the skillful comedic direction of former Head of the Class alum Brian 'Eric' Robbins that things would go so surprisingly awry? (After all he did add filmmaking shine to Keanu Reeves in "Hardball!") But in the end it’s the uninspired work of a tired, worn out and flatly selling out Mr. Murphy that makes me wish I never met Dave in any of his humorless guises – even for a free screening I wanted my money back.
This one smelled not only of bad son Murphy going back to apologize to his shunned father Landis (too little, to late Eddie!), but a desperate and unsuccessful grab at a former glory gone forever. It could have been a wise decision for Murphy to re-team up with former partner-in-film John Landis, but this goofy (a crime set in a…theme park?!), ridiculous (Foley saves the kids – from a Ferris wheel!) and frankly offensive (unfunny and too bloody!) third outing of Axel Foley throws out what we came to love about the character in the first place for cheap thrills. Foley wasn’t a superman, he was an everyman - a likeable low-class cop who had street smarts, zeal and a sense of self. If I wanted to see a dense and fluffy film minus substance I’d rent a Brett Ratner picture...uh, oh no.
3. "Another 48 Hrs."
While the great helmer Hill and bitter as ever co-star Nolte were still in fine "48 Hrs." form, Eddie’s presence in this film was much like his availability during shooting – MIA. Murphy only shows up in a handful of scenes here and when he does it’s painfully obvious he doesn’t give a crap. (He re-does the damn 'Roxanne' scene for crying out loud!) Dull, insipid and basically as tasty as a mouth full of fresh dirt, Murphy’s sub-par work here makes us yearn for the funnyman of past...and curse the egomaniac of the present.
Eddie Murphy...in space! It does sound like a premise fit for either the multi-talented Pauly Shore or Carrot Top, but no, our man Murphy took on the CGI space race single handedly...and lost. (What dill hole put up $100 million dollars to make this embarrassment and more importantly, did they get their ass kicked?!) Actually, not to shortchange him, Murphy did manage to take down top talents like Rosario Dawson, John Cleese and even "Action’s" amazingly underrated Jay Mohr with him in this intergalactic mess – guess he did manage a superhero-sized feat after all.
5. "Vampire in Brooklyn"
This smells of Eddie hiring one of the best damn horror filmmakers in the business – and ignoring everything he has to say. Bringing the darkly creative Wes "People Under the Stairs" Craven in to add authenticity to an updated vampire tale and then kneecapping his abilities was probably not Murphy’s best business decision. Not to mention that infusing the stunning and talented Angela "Strange Days" Bassett as a lust-de-jour and wasting her sucks more then bad blood. But what’s so glaringly bad about this one is just how cool the film might have been if Eddie had just trusted in both a director who knows the red terrain and a talent that was still engrained – another unfortunate victim of vanity.