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DaltonMaltz

Episode 149 - Boomerang (w/ Marc Bernardin)

Episode 149 - Boomerang (w/ Marc Bernardin)  

21 members have voted

  1. 1. Should "Boomerang" enter The Canon?

    • Yes
      3
    • No
      18


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Writer and co-host of Fatman on Batman Marc Bernardin joins Amy to discuss the 1992 Eddie Murphy film “Boomerang.” They discuss the importance of the all-black cast, the powerful female characters, and the evolution of the Eddie Murphy identity. Plus, we’ll hear about Robin Givens’ strong performance and how “Boomerang” challenges the audience’s empathy.

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I agree with most of Amy's reasoning on the podcast: this movie is incredibly bonkers with some good, fun scenes sprinkled in. Also, so much of this seemed to be Eddie Murphy wrestling with his personal demons. A fascinating film to watch, but definitely not canon-worthy.

 

Also, fun trivia nugget on the cast not mentioned: this film also features two James Bond secondary villains (henchpeople?) with Geoffrey Holder and Grace Jones. Holder played Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die, and Jones was Mayday in A View to a Kill. These films are the bookends of Roger Moore's period as Bond.

 

I should also take the time now to say that I love Grace Jones just being Grace Jones in this. My brother got to unexpectedly have a drink with her a few years ago at a pub in London--a coworker simply said, "Hey, want to grab a beer with my aunt?" Turns out that aunt was Grace Jones. He had only nice things to say about their brief meeting.

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I'll start off saying something nice: Boomerang played better this time than the last time I watched it (when I found it insufferable and needlessly cartoonish). Like Amy, I was also struck by the fact that it's an all-black cast seemingly living in an all-black world, including all of the high-powered professionals we see. It is refreshing to see that.

 

But that said, it's still a movie with some pretty retrograde sexual politics. I'd say it's even retrograde by 1992 rom-com standards; the female characters (however well-played they are) only exist as signposts for the development of our asshole leading man, and the movie seems to operate under the constant assumption that men are just dogs who can't control their sexual urges. As a comedy, Boomerang is usually amusing but rarely laugh-out-loud funny. As a depiction of an all-black cast living in an all-black world, it's interesting but hardly the obvious ground-breaker in this regard. The Cosby Show had already been around for 8 years. Coming to America had basically already accomplished this for Eddie Murphy, four years earlier (and is a better movie). As mentioned, Reginald Hudlin had already made House Party, another popular comedy with an all-black cast (also probably a better movie).

 

So I think Boomerang's status as a trailblazer is . . . questionable at best. Beyond that, there isn't much reason to recommend it as a mediocre rom-com with some very problematic aspects.

 

I'd love to have Marc Bernardin back as a guest host, hopefully to discuss a better movie next time.

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When BOOMERANG was first announced for the podcast, I thought perhaps it was a mistake. I only saw it once before, at around age 11, and I remembered being pretty disappointed by it as I checked off every Eddie Murphy movie off my list. I don't think it belongs in The Canon, but this episode that deeply considered it ended up being one of my favorite discussions in quite some time. It's sometimes hard to remember just what a massive star Eddie Murphy was at this point of his career. Movies like BEVERLY HILLS COP, THE GOLDEN CHILD, and BOOMERANG were enormous hits, and the public did not seem to discriminate. These movies, particularly BOOMERANG, were not marketed or treated as "black movies," the way that Tyler Perry movies or the breakout hit GIRLS TRIP are sometimes are today. Even a huge star like Kevin Hart seems to get a much different reaction and budget when he makes a movie with Ice Cube than for ones he makes with Dwayne Johnson. Eddie Murphy movies were for everyone and the studios treated them as such. He didn't need to make a film like BOOMERANG that made such a statement of having an entirely black cast trying to claim a whole genre of romantic comedy as their own, but I'm incredibly impressed that he did. I certainly didn't view BOOMERANG through that lens when I saw it as a kid. I only wish that I liked this particular movie more, because in spite of its financial success, if it had been better received by critics at the time and had more crossover appeal, he might have continued to make more films like this and really nailed one eventually.

 

For me, and seemingly many others, COMING TO AMERICA had already done this better, with Eddie giving a much more balanced and complete performance in it. Yes, he's hysterical in it, taking on many roles which gave him the freedom to play, but still being a sincere and romantic lead, playing it straight as Akeem. That movie would probably get an easy Canon Yes vote from me and it's the primary reason that Jackie Wilson's "To Be Loved" was the first song my wife and I danced to at our wedding. Don't tell her that though. BOOMERANG though doesn't quite feel like it sticks the landing of what it's trying to be. I appreciate that Eddie is rather sincere and straight throughout the film, leaving the scene-stealing comedic moments to the supporting (primarily female) players, but in turn he botches his own arc. I was surprised to hear a film like IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT evoked, because this movie feels a lot more like Eddie Murphy's ALFIE to me, only without the commitment to allowing its hero to not get succeed in the end. I found I remembered very little from the plot of this movie. In my head, I even initially remembered that Robin Givens and Lela Rochon were the same character, with her reinventing herself to get revenge on Eddie for how she was treated, only to be discovered later by reveal of the same hammer toes. I must have dreamed that. And I never could have predicted that this ended with Eddie and Halle Berry walking hand in hand, with him casually claiming that he wasn't still eyeballing other women as she laughed in the fade out. I mean shouldn't this movie end with Eddie at the wedding of Halle Berry and David Alan Grier who managed to win her over with his kind sincerity after Eddie pushed her away with his infidelity? I'm not saying that necessarily would have been a better movie, but it might have made a lot more sense.

 

What we get instead is a film that I constantly can't tell what moral it is trying to tell us. It doesn't seem like Eddie is really humbled by encountering a woman who treats him the way he has treated other women, but the film is trying to force this scenario that Eddie doesn't entirely want to play. Perhaps his reluctance to fully go there is because he was intimidated by Robin Givens who is dominating the film and stealing most of the laughs out from under him. Givens, and so much of the supporting cast are so great in this movie, that I feel that my disappointment in the overall film can only be placed on Eddie. It's odd that he's so reserved in the film when surrounding himself by such gloriously over the top performers like Grace Jones, Geoffrey Holder, Lela Rochon, John Witherspoon, Eartha Kitt, Martin Lawrence, and Chris Rock. It only accentuates what feels a bit like a lazy performance. I get that he was trying to be in leading man mode, but he shows restraint to a fault. This movie came at a point of Murphy's career when he was trying to do really big and different things that typically wouldn't pay off. He tried for a high concept comedy with THE GOLDEN CHILD, but the laughs and the fantasy never quite work. He tried for a period gangster flick with HARLEM NIGHTS, but the cast of comedic legends is at sea with weak material. There was political satire with THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMEN, and soon a horror movie, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, where Murphy again plays things a little too straight to the point that the movie is neither funny nor scary. These were all big swings that many stars today wouldn't attempt for fear of going off brand. I mean, could you imagine Dwayne Johnson make a movie that DIDN'T take place in a jungle or burning skyline? Murphy should have been better rewarded for going outside his comfort zone, even if it didn't yield better results. It's still odd that this was considered the slump of his career, with only three flops between BOOMERANG and THE NUTTY PROFESSOR when he became an instant mega star again. Still, for all its efforts to do some very interesting things, I don't think that BOOMERANG ultimately succeeds. I was very happy to watch it again, and certainly we got more films like it today, though perhaps soon we will. A respectful NO vote, but I do now hold this film in somewhat higher esteem.

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Forgot to say what others are already hitting on: there are better Eddie Murphy candidates.

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No .. serious no.

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There are so many Eddie films that belong in the canon so much more, but this one does not. It just...does not matter in the long run I don't think. There is plenty of validity to it, and there is importance to it, but is it really canon worthy? I appreciate when people go to bat for their favorite movies, I really do, and I've been convinced at times. Just not this time.

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I'm probably actually a soft no on this, but I voted yes just because I was bummed out at how one-sided the vote is so far. I mean, this is definitely a more Canon-worthy film than Point Break, so there's no reason that this vote should be so much more of a blow-out.

 

And there's plenty to love about this film, which I generally really enjoyed, despite the rampant misogyny of the first half of the film. First off, Reginald Hudlin's quote about how insane it is that they assembled this cast is spot-on. Without knowing any of the cast before watching besides Eddie Murphy and Robin Givens, I was progressively more and more blown away seeing Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Eartha Kitt, Halle Berry, Chris Rock, Grace Jones, etc. Before Black Panther, what $100 million grossing film had a cast of black stars as strong as this? Unlike Amy, I certainly didn't notice the lack of white characters, perhaps because I was so overwhelmed by how star-studded it was.

 

I agreed with Amy and Marc that it is nice (and much too rare) to see these characters just be mostly competent at their jobs, and to have no humor mined specifically from race. Contrast that with Putney Swope, which I also enjoyed and which also took place in advertising, but where race is every punchline and plot point.

 

And yes, Beverly Hills Cop is Canon-worthy, as is Coming To America and maybe 48 Hours, and I might argue for Bowfinger as well, but this isn't a versus episode, and I was extremely surprised by how much I enjoyed Boomerang.

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Eddie Murphy has never been in a good movie. I understand the appeal of 48 Hours, Trading Places, and Beverly Hills Cop--they have their moments. They have some classic scenes. But they are not good movies. I'd say they are actually bad movies that Eddie Murphy saved by coming in and doing his appealing schtick. (Honestly, Ghostbusters and Bill Murray are the same -- a flawed movie that becomes a must see because of what Bill brought -- not the script, not the director.)

 

I've always found Eddie to be a very sad case. I'm old so I can remember when he was an amazing and fresh comic. And so smart. So special. It wasn't fair to him that he was on SNL at the worst time, with the worst cast, when he had to carry the whole show. But his best stuff was among the best that show ever had. Then he was cast in movies where he had to carry the whole movie, taking mediocre product and trying to spruce it up. I used to wonder what he would do if he even had a chance to work with a talented writer and director. But that didn't happen. I don't know much about him. I suspect that he was just so huge, with the entourage and the mega-star trappings, he wasn't strong enough or interested enough to do what it would take to take interesting roles in unusual projects. It makes me appreciate how tough it must have been for Bill Murray. (FYI - I'm one of the few who saw The Razor's Edge in its initial run.)

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I agree pretty much with everything that Amy said. I thought of Pauline Kael's reviews of films like Mahogany and Lady Sings the blues in the seventies: she noted that black audiences seemed to want their experiences filtered through the old Hollywood models of glamour and melodrama. Boomerang seems like a throwback to the Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies, where high style decor and fashion were lightly sprinkled over with the diamond glitter of one liners and sex that wasn't too sexy and which wound up with the usual nuptial bells ringing in the background or at least the strong possibility of them. The problem is that Murphy has been miscast, rather the way Ewan McGregor didn't quite work in Down with Love. You either need the sort of edgy actor who comes alive in a macho douche role like this, the way Clark Gable, Murphy's model, was able to do with such ease or Jason Statham did in Spy, or else you need a stone cold fox like Rock Hudson or dreamy John Gavin. Murphy is in his heart a bohemian scrambler; he's not a man who defines himself by his suits, and wants us to know that putting his disdain for the character on the surface, which neuters the role. And though he's certainly cute you never find yourself waiting for him to pop those shirts off, as you would a young Billy D. Williams or Denzel, or hell, even a young Carl Weathers--who probably would have been just right here by the way. Lacking these credentials you don't really buy that every woman in the world would be falling all over herself to sleep with him. This makes the women seem ultimately crazier even than they would anyway.

 

Also, I don't like the way the film ultimately winds up saying that in the end a man like Murphy needs a giving earth mother type while cutting down the career woman Robin Givens, who really is the only sort of woman he could make out with. But then Givens is so stiff and cold a performer--like Grace Kelly without the wicked European wit--that I only felt bad for her on principal, because the writing was so casually sexist. All that would be okay by me if the Murphy character had the masculine force to bring a woman's ambivalent feelings about men to the surface, but he just seems like a weenie, and I couldn't even be bothered to be annoyed.

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Hard no. I think a lot of people have covered what my thoughts are and I don't need to expound on them.

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