Dear So-and-So: Eddie Murphy
“ Dear Eddie (can I call you Eddie?),
I was born in 1981, which was right around the time your career was taking off on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE . Of a relentlessly mediocre cast, you were the only bright spot (although Joe Piscopo did a mean Sinatra). Week after week, you were the only one that kept SNL relevant, and the few people that tuned in, did so only to see you. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that SNL probably wouldn’t have survived the early eighties had it not been for your involvement. People were willing to sit through ninety minutes of mediocre, to hopelessly bad sketches in the hope of seeing you pop up as Gumby, Buckwheat, James Brown, or- in the brilliant “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood”.
Still, you were obviously carrying the rest of the cast- but luckily, people got wind of your incredible talent. Soon, 48 HRS came along, and changed everything. From your first appearance in the film, warbling “Roxanne” by The Police, you instantly stole the film from Nick Nolte. When you walked into the hillbilly bar about halfway through the film (never mind that Hillbilly bars probably didn’t exist in San Francisco, where this film is set), you instantly became THE comedy God of the eighties. There’s a reason why 48 HRS made close to $80 Million bucks at the box office, and it wasn’t Nolte.
It was so obvious that you were a star in the wake of 48 HRS , that you became to the only cast member in SNL history to host while still being part of the cast (yes, yes- I know you were filling in for a “sick” Nolte- who was probably lying in bed somewhere surrounded by empty bottles of Jack Daniels, and naked barmaids). Any thought that you might have been a one hit wonder was dismissed once TRADING PLACES opened, and grossed even more than 48 HRS. Then came, your concert film, DELIRIOUS- which stands, alongside the latter RAW, as one of the best stand-up films ever made. Sure, it was homophobic as all hell, but it was funny, and considering the attitudes of the time, not that much more offensive than what a lot of other comics, like Robin Williams were doing at the time.
In 1984, you finally got out of SNL, and made your biggest, and best film- BEVERLY HILLS COP. Here was a film where, for once, you weren’t paired with some white leading man, but instead got to carry the film on your own shoulders- which you did effortlessly. It was tailor made for your sensibilities, and twenty six years later, it stands as one of the greatest comedies ever made.
After that, the blockbusters just kept coming. THE GOLDEN CHILD was your next big hit. While it's not one of your better films, it still ended up one of the top grossing films of 1986.
The next year came another concert film, EDDIE MURPHY: RAW, which grossed $50 Million and stands as the highest grossing concert film of all time. You also made your first sequel, BEVERLY HILLS COP 2. While it wasn’t in quite the same league as the original film (producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer probably made a mistake having Tony Scott come on board and transform it into another TOP GUN), it still made a shitload of cash. In 1988, you reteamed with John Landis (TRADING PLACES), and made COMING TO AMERICA, which teamed you with Rock Baker for the first time, and allowed you to play a variety of characters, including an old white man. It had a lot of great moments, and was another R-Rated smash.
But then came HARLEM NIGHTS. Oh Eddie, no one can blame you for that film. You were just too big a star then to resist the temptation of a vanity project that you’d direct, as well as star in. It paired you with mentors Richard Pryor, and Redd Foxx, but the film did not come together, and was your first disappointment. Next was ANOTHER 48 HRS, but it was obvious you were just phoning it in, as was Nolte, and director Walter Hill. It did OK business, but it was the first sign that something was going wrong with your career.
You bounced back with the $70 Million grossing BOOMERANG, but it’s attempt to refashion you into a Cary Grant-style leading man didn’t really gel with the public, and your next film, THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN flopped. You’re career seemed over after the back to back flops, BEVERLY HILLS COP 3, and VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, and many thought the age of Eddie Murphy was over.
You proved them wrong in 1996 with THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, which was a smash, and led to a sequel, KLUMPS: THE NUTTY PROFESSOR 2. You had another smash with DR. DOOLITLE, and it’s sequel, but it seemed like you were no longer the Eddie Murphy we all grew up with. BOWFINGER proved you were just as funny as ever, and the under-rated METRO also proved you could still carry an action flick.
You’re career stalled again with PLUTO NASH (which stands as one of the biggest flops of all time), and I SPY, but then you had a big hit with DADDY DAY CARE. And this is when you stopped being Eddie Murphy, and became a Bill Cosby clone.
Oh Eddie, what happened? Were you sick of the fickle audiences paying more attention to the tabloids, and your marital troubles than your films? Was it all only ever about the money? There was a glimmer of the old Eddie Murphy in DREAMGIRLS, but then came the triple threat of NORBIT, MEET DAVE, and IMAGINE THAT.
The thing is, you’re just as talented as ever. DREAMGIRLS proved that, but you blowing off Bill Condon’s planned Richard Pryor bio-pic due to a salary dispute rubbed a lot of us hardcore fans the wrong way. Don’t you have enough money? Why not do one for the fans? As for BEVERLY HILLS COP 4- why bother? Didn’t COP 3 prove that franchise was dead?
I truly think you could come back, and re-establish yourself- not as a 21st century Bill Cosby, but as Eddie Murphy. Why not hit the road and do some stand-up, and after that do another good R-Rated comedy? I know a lot of your fans would be lining up to see you in concert, or in a new, GOOD film. A good start would be to give Bill Condon a call, and FINALLY get cracking on the Richard Pryor bio-pic- paycheck be damned.
It that doesn't work out, then why not try generating your own material with your brother Charlie. Heck, it worked back in the eighties, it can work again now. Maybe a good action-comedy, with emphasis on the comedy (just please, no PG-13).
It’s not too late Eddie. Don’t write yourself off, as it seems you’ve done lately. You’re still one of the funniest guys to ever hit the silver screen, and considering you're not even 50, you've still got years ahead of you to rebuild your legacy.
Don't let us down. The world needs Eddie Murphy!
|Extra Tidbit:||How big a star was Eddie Murphy in 1984/85? This is how big: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDbpzjbXUZI|