[Screen It]


(1999) (Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Smoking Tense Family
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Comedy: A smalltime filmmaker tries to direct a sci-fi movie without actually telling his major star, a paranoid actor, that he's going to be in it.
Bobby Bowfinger (STEVE MARTIN) is a down on his luck, 49-year-old filmmaker whose world headquarters is run from his small house. Aware that he's near the end of his career potential, Bowfinger's excited about the prospects of a new, alien invaders sci-fi script, "Chubby Rain," that's been penned by his account friend-turned screenwriter, Afrim (ADAM ALEXI-MALLE).

Making sure that his actor friends -- Carol (CHRISTINE BARANSKI), a veteran, but little known stage actress, and Slater (KOHL SUDDUTH), the closest thing he has to a resident hunk -- don't commit to anything else, Bowfinger tries to bluff his way into getting big-time producer Jerry Renfro (ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.), to produce his film.

Upon seeing the script, Renfro agrees, but only if Bowfinger can deliver A-list action star Kit Ramsey (EDDIE MURPHY) attached to star in it. Beyond not knowing Ramsey, Bowfinger's biggest problem is that the actor is paranoid -- particularly about space aliens, a fact he discusses with Terry Stricter (TERENCE STAMP), the head of a tightly controlled motivational organization called "MindHead."

Of course Ramsey wants nothing to do with Bowfinger or his script. The resourceful director, who only has $2,184 to his name, then simply tells his cast and crew that Ramsey prefers not to see the camera or interact with any of them and thus manages to include the actor in his film, but without his permission or even knowledge.

With the help of Dave (JAMIE KENNEDY), a studio gopher who "borrows" all of their needed gear, and using Carol, Slater, Ramsey look-alike Jiff (EDDIE MURPHY) and Daisy (HEATHER GRAHAM), who's new to town and willing to sleep her way to success, Bowfinger sets out to complete his film, whether it drives Ramsey further into paranoia or not.

If they're into "mass appeal" comedies, or are fans of Eddie Murphy or Steve Martin, they probably will.
For sex-related material and language.
  • STEVE MARTIN plays a "do it by any means" smalltime director who lies to his crew, films a star without his permission and sleeps with one of his actresses while trying to complete his film.
  • ADAM ALEXI-MALLE plays an accountant-turned screenwriter who also sleeps with Daisy.
  • CHRISTINE BARANSKI plays Bowfinger's veteran stage actress friend who initially can't believe she's appearing in one of his films.
  • KOHL SUDDUTH plays Bowfinger's friend and resident hunk actor who ends up sleeping with Daisy.
  • EDDIE MURPHY plays both a paranoid movie star who cusses a lot, as well as a friendly simpleton who's hired as a stand-in for Bowfinger's movie (and also sleeps with Daisy).
  • TERENCE STAMP plays the head of a Scientology-like organization that tries to help Ramsey by controlling his life.
  • JAMIE KENNEDY plays a studio employee who "borrows" various equipment and/or vehicles for Bowfinger to use on their film.
  • HEATHER GRAHAM plays an aspiring actress who decides the best way to succeed is by sleeping with everyone.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    For the uninitiated and unsuspecting, making it in Hollywood when you're a nobody is a lot like being a herbivore in some nature special on "The Discovery Channel." Unsure of what to do, those new to Tinseltown go there to test the waters, but inevitably get pounced upon by some veteran carnivore and are never heard from again. It's a brutal world, and newbies are clearly at the bottom of the entertainment food chain.

    Yet for the hundreds or thousands of those who are consumed, every once in a while a story pops up about some resourceful performer, writer or filmmaker who bluffed their way into a meeting, were inventive in their pitch, or racked up their credit card debt -- while self-financing their spec film -- to equal or exceed that of a small third world country.

    That said, this week's relatively big budget release of "Bowfinger," starring Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin and helmed by the director of "In & Out," certainly isn't about one of those cases. It is, however, an often hilarious look at such Hollywood wannabes and the efforts they'll make and the risks they'll take to play with the big boys.

    Although the sheer billing of Murphy and Martin together is enough to get comedy fans drooling, I for one was somewhat skeptical about such a pairing and partially dreaded the thought of what flotsam it might produce. That's not to say that I find those actors unappealing -- in fact, I've usually enjoyed most of their films and other appearances.

    It's just that while such stars shine brighter in Hollywood than anywhere else but the heavens, bringing two or more of them together often results in the magnitude of their combined luminance blinding them and everyone around them. One need look no farther than Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman in "Ishtar" or Dudley Moore and Eddie Murphy in "Best Defense" for proof of that.

    Thus, I'm happy to report that the two of them are quite funny in this film. That's despite the fact that they spend more time playing apart from one another than off each other, and that the plot never really develops much beyond the setup.

    As written by Martin (who also penned "Roxanne" and "L.A. Story") and directed by Frank Oz ("In & Out," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"), the picture is filled with old-fashioned and zany, screwball humor that stems from the basic premise.

    Having Martin and his cast & crew shooting their film guerilla style and without their star's knowledge is a fun satire of such hungry but audacious filmmakers. It also generates some quite hilarious scenes including one that involves a dog, a paranoid star and a pair of high heels, the combination of which has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.

    While that's the best of a handful of clever comedic sequences -- that are accompanied by many other simpler, but still funny moments -- the film never goes much beyond repeatedly playing off the basic, underlying premise.

    In fact, despite the hilarious moments and overall zaniness, Martin and company missed some opportunities to give the film an even sharper or more refined edge. While some of the humor stems from their script involving aliens that just so happens to make their unknowing star paranoid, this is just an accident.

    Had the guerrilla filmmakers first researched Ramsey (which could have involved some funny covert fact collection), written their script to play off his insecurities, and then watched as their plan that initially worked then backfired for any number of reasons, the picture would've had more inspired substance.

    That said, one must keep in mind that Murphy's egotistical, but occasionally practical, star character exclaims at one point that they're making a movie, and not a film. As such, this "picture" isn't striving for highbrow or otherwise sophisticated humor, but instead for silly laughs. Whether you agree with that game plan depends on your taste in comedy.

    While I would have preferred some rough moments to be smoother (such as Martin being oblivious to the car phone connector cable dangling from the phone he's faking as a portable), the film does offer enough genuine laughs to make it worth recommending.

    Although this clearly isn't either of the stars' better films or performances, both deliver amusing takes on their characters. Steve Martin (the "Father of the Bride" films, "The Out-Of-Towners"), who's always far better in his more "serious" comedic roles than the goofy ones, is appealing as the down-on-his-luck, last shot filmmaker. While he has to perform some undeserved, idiotic behavior (the above car phone scene and not realizing until late in the game that he won't be able to release his film until he gets Ramsey's permission), in general it's a winning performance.

    The best moments, however, belong to Eddie Murphy ("Life," "Dr. Dolittle") and the two characters he inhabits. While he doesn't rely on the usual heavy prosthetic makeup effects to create character number two (some glasses, braces and an awful lot of facial contortions do the trick), the characters are still worlds apart.

    From the paranoid delusions of aliens and racism of one character (at one point, he counts the number of times the letter K appears in a script, divides that by three, and then states that the script has several hundred references to the KKK) to the goofy but lovable down home qualities of Jiff, Murphy delivers some funny moments that shouldn't be missed.

    Unfortunately, the supporting performances are much weaker and serve more as "filler" than comedy emitting beings. While Heather Graham ("Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "Lost in Space") is easy on the eyes, Christine Baranski ("Bulworth," "The Birdcage") does her take of an aging, but undeserving diva and Terence Stamp ("Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace," the upcoming "The Limey") plays the cool and calculating leader of an organized Hollywood philosophy that's obviously aimed at Scientology, all of them and the rest are clearly overshadowed by their funny leading men.

    All in all, the film could, and probably should have had a sharper or more clever script. That would have enabled it to transcend simply repeatedly playing off the basic premise and never advancing much beyond it. Nonetheless, the film offers enough funny moments to appease audiences hungry for some decent laughs. For that reason, we give "Bowfinger" a 6.5 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated comedy. An ingénue who arrives in town soon decides the best way to get to the top is to sleep with everyone. Although most of these encounters aren't seen (with only one having contact and some related sounds, but no nudity or movement), they're referenced many times and related sexual dialogue occurs, stemming from them. Some implied nudity also occurs (including a flasher scene), but we never directly see any of it.

    Profanity is rated as heavy due to at least 1 use of the "f" word, as well as other profanities and "colorful" phrases." Some bad attitudes are present in the form of a filmmaker who lies to his crew, "borrows" equipment and vehicles without permission and films an actor to be in their movie without his permission or knowledge.

    Beyond all of that, some brief (and mostly faked for their movie) violence and a bit of drinking, the rest of the film's categories are mostly void of any major objectionable content. Nonetheless, and as always, should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at what's been listed.

  • With Daisy at the door, we see Bowfinger pour a bottle of cheap wine into an empty expensive bottle and then water it down. Later, Daisy says that this is the type of wine that one can drink as much as they want and not get drunk.
  • Bowfinger's cast and crew have champagne.
  • We see some fake blood on Slater during a staged scene.
  • Dressed like an alien posing as a cop, Afrim's masked face has all sorts of goo come running out of it during a scene in their movie. Moments later, his arm drops off.
  • We see a fake, cutoff head with blood on the stump.
  • All of the following is meant to be viewed in a comical sense.
  • In a men's clothing store, Bowfinger exchanges his plaid jacket for a better-looking one and hangs up his old one (ie. He shoplifts).
  • Dave "borrows" executives' or the studio's cars and other gear to help Bowfinger make his movie, and in one scene Bowfinger rips a phone from one of the "borrowed" cars to make it look like he's carrying a portable.
  • Bowfinger lies to his cast and crew about Kit wanting to be in their movie, and then decides to include Ramsey in the movie without his permission. He also manipulates Jiff into doing things for him and/or the film.
  • Daisy sleeps with nearly everyone thinking that's the way to make it to the top in Hollywood.
  • Bowfinger finds, takes and then uses Daisy's credit card without her knowledge.
  • Dave borrows Renfro's one of a kind car for a scene in their movie.
  • Some may find a scene where Bowfinger and the others convince Jiff to cross both sides of a very busy freeway on foot as somewhat comically suspenseful, what with all the speeding cars passing within inches of him.
  • Likewise, very young kids may not like a scene featuring a person holding a fake, cutoff head with blood on the stump, or goo oozing from a person's face.
  • Handgun: Carried and occasionally fired by Kit.
  • Although we don't see who's firing, we hear gunshots as Bowfinger and his crew pick up some illegal aliens on the border to be their crew (we do hear bullets hitting their van).
  • Large knife: Carried by Carol in scenes of their movie.
  • Fake gun: Used in a scene in a movie.
  • Fake alien space gun: Aimed by Jiff's character at Kit.
  • Handguns: Aimed at Kit and his entourage by some cops (one Afrim, the other a real one, but just acting as well).
  • Fake machine guns/Swords: Seen in a movie.
  • Phrases (due to crowd noise, the following should be considered as a minimum): "Lying sack of sh*t," "Holy sh*t," "Suckers," "Screwed" (nonsexual), "Shut up," "Bastard" and "Screw up."
  • For part of the movie, Bowfinger and the others convince Jiff to cross both sides of a very busy freeway on foot.
  • Bowfinger uses a rubber band to hold his dog's legs together (the pooch is sleeping on his back with them spread into the air).
  • Daisy sleeps with nearly everyone thinking that's the way to make it to the top in Hollywood.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Due to crowd noise, the following should be considered as a minimum.
  • At least 1 "f" word, 10 "s" words, 6 asses, 5 damns, 1 hell and 5 uses of "Oh my God" and 3 uses of "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • Due to crowd noise, the following should be considered as a minimum.
  • Stricter tells Kit that he has to "keep Mr. Weenie in the pants," after the star states that he has to show it (his privates) to the Laker Girls (cheerleaders).
  • Daisy and Slater passionately kiss during her audition for a part in the movie. After they're done, Bowfinger says that they'll try it again, "but this time without the erection" (which we don't see -- it's said just as a joke).
  • Playing her part, Carol makes a sexually related comment to Kit about "being inside you."
  • Various women show cleavage during the film, including Daisy (several times), Carol and some miscellaneous characters.
  • Kit tells Stricter that strange people are approaching him, talking "about aliens, sex, umbrellas..."
  • We see Daisy and Slater walking along the street and she says "I've never done it lying down before" and he states that next time he'd like to do it with just two condoms (thus she had sex with him as part of her casting couch strategy of sleeping to the top).
  • There's some talk about a scene where Daisy will expose her breasts to increase sales of the film in Thailand.
  • Daisy walks along with Afrim, presumably after having sex.
  • Carol approaches Kit and comments about initially being nervous about them having sex and then states that there will be a lot of people watching them. Kit, as paranoid as ever, runs away and later states that the aliens want to "inhale my gonads."
  • We see several men in their underwear (boxers and briefs) as they do "butt auditions" as possible stand-ins for Kit.
  • During his audition, Jiff is asked whether he's willing to show his naked rear end during the movie and he embarrassedly laughs and says "Yeah, I guess so."
  • Bowfinger and Daisy kiss with her making some aroused sounds as he lies on top of her and continues to kiss her. She then says, "Who cares if when I hit my sexual peak, you'll be seventy." She then says, "I want to make love to you. Oh God. I want you so much." She then adds that it's "the woman who's entered. It's the woman who's violated...To know the man inside you is part of you." As she says this, she briefly places his hand on her cleavage. Moments later and hearing some slight moaning and seeing them only from the shoulders up, we see that she's apparently sitting on his lap having sex.
  • Bowfinger tells Jiff that he'll appear in a scene with Daisy where she takes off her blouse. He smiles and then stares at her chest (we see this scene from behind her). During the scene and in character, she states that something "makes me need you, now." She then takes off her top and while we don't see anything, Jiff does and embarrassedly smiles and laughs.
  • Jiff says, "You'll never guess who I just had intercourse with in the van" just as Daisy slinks in. He then adds that she's "the most inventive girl." Bowfinger then confronts Daisy and says, "You had sex with Jiff." She replies, "So?" and he then states, "Well, I never thought about it that way" and the subject is dropped.
  • Although we only see the back of him, we do see Kit flash the Laker Girls cheerleaders (but they laugh at the sight and he replies that "it's not funny" as he runs away).
  • It's implied that Daisy had sex with Dave, and with a woman who Daisy states is "one of the most powerful lesbians in Hollywood."
  • None.
  • None.
  • Daisy's decision to sleep her way to success (by sleeping with anyone who seems to have power).
  • The film's apparent jabs at Scientology (and what exactly that is).
  • The efforts smalltime filmmakers will take in trying to make it in Hollywood.
  • Bowfinger rips a car phone from a car (to make it look like a portable).
  • Upset, Kit randomly fires several shots from his handgun that strike a drum set.
  • We see Bowfinger being thrown onto the street from Kit's car.
  • Although we don't see who's firing, we hear gunshots as Bowfinger and his crew pick up some illegal aliens on the border to be their crew (we do hear bullets hitting their van).
  • We see an actor tossed out onto the street from Bowfinger's place.
  • In a staged scene for the movie, Carol shoots Slater's character and we see some fake blood. Daisy's character then kicks the gun from her hand.
  • There's some very faked martial arts fighting in a scene from a movie.

  • Reviewed August 4, 1999 / Posted August 13, 1999

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