Retro Review: Showtime

Do you remember those great “buddy-cop-movies” of the 80’s?

You know the kind of movies where there is always this “by-the-book” cop is partnered with some heavily flawed comic relief partner. In the 80’s, they tried this formula every which way they could.

There were styles on the genre ranging from totally comedic to heavy-action content. The ones that succeeded were the ones that were able to blend comedy and action seamlessly. Some of those success stories included “Lethal Weapon”, “48 Hours”, “Red Heat” and “The Last Boy Scout”.

In “Showtime”, it’s a new millennium and Hollywood has decided to revisit the genre with a new spin. Why not partner up the old reliable “buddy-cops” on a “reality-based” TV show and let the sparks fly.

In “Showtime”, Robert DeNiro stars as Mitch Preston, a “not-always-by-the-book” cop who finds himself front-page news when he shoots the camera out of the hands of a news channel cameraman.

Preston impresses Chase Renzi (Rene Russo), a news channel producer with his no nonsense and attitude to police work. Renzi pitches her idea to her boss and then begins to sculpt a show around Mitch.

The only problem is that Mitch needs a partner on the show and in steps “aspiring-actor-and-cop” Trey Sellers (Eddie Murphy). There is a lot heat between Mitch and Trey which makes Renzi drool. We have the perfect setup for a classic “buddy-cop” movie.

“Showtime” revisits the classic formula of “buddy-cop” films but with unique direction. This new direction comes from the reality-based angle and chemistry associated with DeNiro and Murphy. This chemistry is the foundation for the film. The film also capitalizes on a cameo appearance of William Shatner who pokes fun at his 80s cop series “T.J. Hooker”.

It would have been even funnier if they could have thrown in Heather Locklear with Shatner to keep the Hooker jokes going. There should have been more Shatner moments.

Eddie Murphy shines as Trey Sellers as he returns to his “delightful-in-your-face” comedic presence that probably hasn’t been seen since “Beverly Hills Cop 2”. Murphy does what he does best when he fleshes out Trey. His panache and “on-screen” energy has never been fully explored in the past five years and it’s so refreshing to see him return.

Most of his greatest moments come when he starts showing off for the camera. It is totally “classic” Eddie and I have so missed “classic” Eddie.

If you love Axel Foley or miss the Eddie we lost in the 90s then you will love “Showtime”. Now if only he could drop the “Dolittle” and the “Professor”.

DeNiro’s continuation into comedy doesn’t make him the showcase of this piece but it does make him one of the better straight men in comedies today. DeNiro plays it straight a lot like he did with the gangster he played in “Analyze This”. I have enjoyed all his comedic turns but I have always thought that “Meet the Parents” was his best comedy.

With sequels to “Analyze This”, tentatively titled “Analyze That”, and “Meet the Parents”, tentatively titled “Meet the Fockers”, DeNiro has carved himself out a new career.

I will be excited to see how DeNiro will be able to flesh out his characters more in those sequels.

The plot and scenario of “Showtime” reminded me a lot of the 1991 “cop-buddy” movie called “The Hard Way” which starred Michael J. Fox and James Woods.

Fox played an actor researching a part for an action movie and is teamed up with hard-boiled and tough-as-nails street-cop Woods. The chemistry of Fox and Woods in the film is very much similar to Eddie and DeNiro in “Showtime”.

“The Hard Way” didn’t work as film because the film went way to serious and drowned out a lot of the comedy.

It was more of a wake-up call for Fox’s character then a comedic adventure. This failure is cured in “Showtime” because of the comedic side of the “reality” series in the film.

In some ways I liked the “The Hard Way” more but “Showtime” really does take this style of plotline and do it justice without killing the film by taking itself too seriously.

I liked “Showtime” mostly because it returned to a genre I have always loved. Then throw in the return of “classic” Eddie and you have a comedy is well worth your bucks.

4 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: March 18, 2002

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