The situation is a little too wacky for Bowfinger to be a great, lasting comedy, but it is funny.
Steve Martin plays Bobby Bowfinger, a (very) small-time director trying to complete one last picture before he turns 50. His accountant Afrim (Adam Alexi-Malle) has written a great script, so now all he needs is funding and a big-name star.
The Impostors, 1998, Stanley Tucci, another film where the actors had a great time trying to upstage each other (apparently, a giant plastic ham was awarded daily to the actor who overacted the most).
Martin’s Bowfinger would be a great director. That’s not to say he could make a good movie, but he has all the schmoozing techniques down pat. When he needs help from above, he can dress to impress (including ponytail, cell phone, and convertible, all “borrowed.”) When he needs help from below, he calls people, tells them what to do, then hangs up before they can say no.
Martin uses his schmooze to “run into” a big producer (Robert Downey, Jr.), and even manages to get some conditional funding. All he has to do is sign the biggest action star in Hollywood, Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), to his picture and Renfro (Downey) will pay for it.
Bowfinger’s next stop is the Ramsey mansion, where Kit won’t give him the time of day. Things look hopeful after Bowfinger lies about being in “Mind Head,” a psychological/religious organization that Ramsey belongs to, but as soon as Bowfinger mentions the script, he’s out the door.
Kit Ramsey is extremely paranoid, and Murphy is really not that fun to watch in the role. He plays the part perfectly for this movie, but he’s got a nervous tension that’s not as likeable or entertaining as the other characters in Bowfinger. It’s unfortunate because it changes the timbre of the movie when he’s on screen.
Bowfinger realizes Ramsey will never agree to be in the movie. He tries to break the news to his crew, but doesn’t have the heart. Instead he tells them that he’s going to make the movie with Kit Ramsey, as planned. And he is, too, only Ramsey won’t know about it. He’s going to stalk Ramsey from afar, and have the actors walk up to him and say their lines.
He hires a lookalike (Jiff, also played by Eddie Murphy) to do reverse-angle shots, and action sequences that they can’t stage with Ramsey. Murphy’s Jiff — a dumb, goofy lug whose career aspiration is to be an errand boy — is much more fun to watch.
Rounding out Bowfinger’s cast and crew are an aging actress (Christine Baranski) who has worked hard without making it big — she hopes this movie will be the one; his cinematographer who has the means to “borrow” professional equipment from a studio; his leading lady, fresh off the bus from Ohio (Heather Graham), who sleeps her way to the top of the little production, but somehow never cheapens herself by doing it, and four undifferentiated Mexicans Bowfinger nabs crossing the border, who throw themselves into their new vocation and start learning about lenses, f-stops and “Cahiers du Cinema.”
Bowfinger has been getting a lot of praise, most of it deserved. But it’s not a perfect movie, and there are lots of uneven spells. The jokes are used one or two times too many, and as short as it is (98 minutes), it’s a little too long.
But it’s still a funny movie, and credit should go to the great cast. Everyone really did a good job overacting, each person trying to upstage everyone else. They were having fun, and it showed.
Best of all, though is Steve Martin in another role that’s just perfect for him. He’s energetic, optimistic, enthusiastic, and just a little naïve. His philosophy seems to be “damn the laws, we’re shooting a movie!”