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Dustin Putman

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Showtime (2002)
½ Star

Directed by Tom Dey
Cast: Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Pedro Damián, Mos Def, Frankie Faison, William Shatner, Drena De Niro, Kadeem Hardison, Judah Friedlander, Peter Jacobson, Johnnie L. Cochran Jr.
2002 – 95 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, language, and some drug content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 15, 2002.

Getting the legendary Robert De Niro (2001's "The Score") to star opposite Eddie Murphy (2001's "Dr. Dolittle 2") in a big, star-driven comedy would seem like a match made in heaven. Under the helm of director Tom Dey (2000's "Shanghai Noon"), however, "Showtime" is almost appalling in its sheer badness. That the screenplay was collaborated on by three people (Keith Sharon, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar), and yet not a single laugh or a successful bit of satire could be generated, just goes to show what a doomed project this must have been from the start.

With their cable station in trouble, television producer Chase Renzi (Rene Russo) devises a TV show premise that she believes can't fail: a reality show that follows the day-by-day lives of two police officers that have been partnered together. Her targets are LAPD veteran Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro), who has just gotten into hot water with his superiors over a botched drug bust, and Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy), who is studying to become both an actor and a real-life detective. While Trey jumps at the chance, Mitch is completely uninterested, but forced into doing it to save himself from being fired. When the show hits big, their worlds are predictably turned upside down.

"Showtime" fails to work on every level. As a satire of buddy cop movies, it is neither witty nor smart about its targets. So poorly conceived is the supposed satire that it ceases to even be satirical. Likewise, director Tom Dey apparently forgot midway through that he was even making a comedy, as a serious, almost incomprehensible thriller subplot is introduced involving a crazed bad guy (Pedro Damián) with a very big, extraordinarily powerful gun. The humor is lacking in the second half, yes, but lessening the blow is the fact that nothing had been even marginally amusing to begin with.

As a behind-the-scenes look at a reality show, the film is calamitous. There is no insight into filmmaking, and no overt entertainment value in the writing or the dreary performances. Scene after scene seems to have been jumbled recklessly together, and without abandon. Tellingly, the movie's scenes could be rearranged into any order and still make about as much sense. For true intelligence and comedic value in reality show moviemaking, one has to look no further than 2001's "Series 7," 1999's "Ed TV," and 1998's "The Truman Show."

Because there are few passing signs of spark to any of the material, it is a mystery to how Robert De Niro got involved. His joking role of the high-tempered Mitch Preston is nearly a carbon copy of his work in 1999's "Analyze This" and 2000's "Meet the Parents," minus the snappy writing and character depth. Less surprising is the appearance of Eddie Murphy, who has recently relegated himself to making bad kid's movies ("Dr. Dolittle 2") and even worse comedies (2000's "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"). His involvement in "Showtime" does nothing but cement his drowning career.

Rounding out the major players, Rene Russo (1999's "The Thomas Crown Affair") is wasted as usual in a stock, one-dimensional part. Russo is a talented performer, but does she go out of her way to get the bad roles in the movies? Finally, there is potential in the scenes involving William Shatner (2000's "Miss Congeniality"), but his cursory part as an acting coach is nothing but an elongated cameo.

By the time "Showtime" climaxes as a hostage thriller, complete with a violent shoot-out, the film has all but signed its own death certificate. Whatever the case may have been behind-the-scenes of this pitiful, slapdash disaster, the finished product of "Showtime" is a DOA dud from frame one.

©2002 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman