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Showtime (March 16/02)

Showtime is an odd little movie. It's not really funny enough to be considered an all-out comedy, nor does it have a sufficient amount of violence to appeal to the action crowd. And the little action it does contain is grisly and disturbing, often resulting in the fatalities of innocent people, which makes this an inappropriate film for younger children.

Robert De Niro stars as one of those stereotypical movie detectives; the kind who never follows the rules but yet always manages to catch his man. Eddie Murphy stars as a beat cop who dreams of becoming an actor (as the movie opens, we see him auditioning for a schlocky police drama). The two become unlikely partners when De Niro's over-the-top brutal escapades catch the eye of a high-profile television producer (Rene Russo). Her plan is to partner up two opposite cops, and follow them around with a camera (the show is a variation on Cops). Obviously, since this is a cliched "buddy cop" movie, the two initially get along poorly - but eventually warm to one another.

Showtime is entertaining, in a "hey, there's nothing on TV so let's go catch a movie" sort of way. It's instantly forgettable but fortunately the two leads manage to generate a good amount of chemistry. De Niro, who has apparently stopped making gritty dramas, is as good as you might expect, but not great. In every comedy he makes these days, he turns in essentially the same performance: The hard-nosed but lovable [insert character here]. And while he obviously exudes a fair amount of charisma, this is the sort of role just about any actor could play without much difficulty. Murphy, on the other hand, goes for the gusto with his character. He plays a guy that desperately wants to be an actor (he only became a cop because he was a terrible waiter), so much so that he stages a fake robbery to get the attention of producer Russo. It's his relationship with the volatile De Niro that keeps the film afloat.

But the real problem with Showtime is that, for a comedy, it's not nearly funny enough. There are a few clever moments mixed in with the broad jokes that misfire (such as when Russo, speaking to a stadium full of gun enthusiasts, warns that there is an "armed and extremely dangerous" madman on the loose; the crowd bursts into applause), but you've already seen the genuinely humorous stuff in the trailer - most of it involving William Shatner's small cameo. This most bizarre part of Showtime, though, has got to be the early '90s inspired villian. Remember when every bad guy sported a cheesy European accent? Well, that cliche is back! And not in a good way, either. Instead of being an ultra-evil Passenger 57-esque baddie, this guy comes off as the sort you'd find toiling in an expensive men's suit store.

Showtime is certainly better than some of the stuff that's playing right now (Rollerball, Crossroads), but that's not saying much.

out of

© David Nusair