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Monday, June 15, 2009

Should Eddie Murphy Do A "One Hour Photo"?

Last week was not a particularly good one for Eddie Murphy. His appearance on Conan was trounced, ratingswise, by Julia Roberts' appearance on Letterman. His movie tanked this weekend, not even breaking the top 3 (And this is not the first time). Nowadays, Murphy, who ruled box office in the 1980s, appears as stale as a goddam fucking Stallone. But if Stallone is an anchovy-oily, Id-influenced relic of that era of big hair, Eddie Murphy, by contrast, is The Clown -- read: attention starved, tragically-damaged, Shakespearean Fool -- only without the ability to elicit laughs.

Not a good look, fer realsies.

Robin Williams had a similar crisis of career at the turn of the millennium. He is a cautionary comedian with lessons for Eddie and for all who elect to pursue the elusive laugh. Williams, a comedian who made the leap to the big screen, had become, by the end of the nineties, a fucking annoyance of world-historical dimensions. "Cadillac Man," "Shakes the Clown," and "Toys" were Robin Williams' career lowlights.

Robin Williams then starred, magnificently, in "One Hour Photo," a precise, well-written independent film in which the formerly buffoonish Mork showed he was capable of profound discipline. The insecure, manic, always-on idiot gave way to a deeper, more serious actor. Williams carried that plodding, slow-moving freight train of an independent film on his shoulders. He followed that us as Walter Finch in "Insomnia," a critically acclaimed remake, opposite -- courageously -- Al Pacino (That took balls). Never mind that Williams obliterated any cinematic goodwill by subsequently signing off on the ill-advised "Man of the Year" in 2006 (a bona fide stinker, to be sure). Historians of the future will note that if for a brief moment Robin Williams was suffused with the good stuff, involved in an improvisatory project of the Self. Similarly, that seedy, libidinous, monosyllabic swine Sylvester "Ay, Yo" Stallone did a solid turn in the critically-acclaimed "Copland," in 1997.

Now is the perfect time for Eddie Murphy to do a "One Hour Photo." But he should learn from the errors of Williams and that filthy, barbaric, steroidal Stallone. The problem with Sylvester and Williams is that they returned to their comfort zones, their "querencia." Williams and That Hideous Strength returned to their respective buffoonery, the things that they knew best. They did not realize that the reasons that their careers capsized was that their career trajectories had reached their natural limits. There is only so far beyond the freewheeling 80s that Republican macho and, in the case of Robin, frenzied leftish comedy will get you. In order to grow, as in life, they had to change. They didn't. They went the way of the dinosaur.

Eddie Murphy has to change. The ticket buying public demands it. It will no longer do to don the "fat suit" to play the role of multiple flatulent characters in search of a laugh (Exaggerated cough suggesting feigned detachment). That role, to be frank, is tired. Obesity, especially American obesity, is no longer ha-ha funny.

Resolved: It's time for Eddie Murphy to do a "One Hour Photo."

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