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From Under A Rock: Bowfinger

April 10, 2018 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Bowfinger  


Today’s pick is the revisiting of a movie I grew up watching constantly. It’s probably been 5-7 years since I last saw it, however, so this will truly be a way for me to see if it holds up.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron chose Oldboy. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock to show him Bowfinger.

Released: August 13th, 1999
Directed by: Frank Oz
Written by: Steve Martin
Steve Martin as Bobby Bowfinger
Eddie Murphy as Kit Ramsey/Jiffrenson “Jiff” Ramsey

Michael Ornelas: This is my go-to response when anyone asks me for my favorite movie about making a movie. It follows a dreamer of a man in Bobby Bowfinger who scams his way into getting his film made with some actual star power. It’s clever and a ton of fun.

Aaron Hubbard: I don’t know if it hits that 2,000 pounds of fun level for me, but it was a neat concept that facilitated a lot of solid comedy.
Eddie & Steve
Fake It Til’ You Make It
Michael: It’s definitely a broad stroke, but Bowfinger does a really funny job of going through the steps to get a movie made in the fakest way possible. Bowfinger is full of shit, but he believes that if he cons everyone involved, he can actually succeed in all the cons playing off one another. This attitude is incredibly pervasive in Hollywood (I live in Hollywood, so I see it around me all the time) — rent the fancy car to give off the perception of success, tell the studio you have a star attached while telling the star you have the studio backing, etc. He’s playing everyone against one another for his own benefit, but in a way, it’s for everyone’s good. It’s hard to dislike him as he has a lot of charm, even if he’s not very smart (other than his cons).

Aaron: It’s also good casting with the excellent Steve Martin, who excels at playing these types of characters. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with Hollywood like you do, but this only seemed mildly farfetched to me. Even if the situations play a bit over the top, it’s easy to imagine people who would go to these lengths to make a movie.

Michael: I also loved the over-the-top portrayal of a Scientology-like organization in Mindhead. Celebrities being into the weirdest trends and all, this also felt like a fun parody of the industry and Hollywood culture. “You must never show it to the Laker Girls…” Amazing.
An Unusually Impressive Cast
Aaron: This isn’t exactly a movie I would call “star studded”, but it does have an impressive number of recognizable stars. Martin and Murphy were kind of past their prime as stars, but could still carry a movie. You’ve got Terence Stamp (General Zod from Superman II) in a fun role as Kit’s therapist, and Robert Downey, Jr. a decade before he reclaimed his A-list status. Christine Baranski (one of those “Hey that person!” types) clearly had a lot of favorite, but my favorite was Heather Graham, fresh off her success in Boogie Nights.

Michael: Heather Graham was so extraordinarily bad in this. In a good way — she played a character who clearly can’t act. She was your stereotypical “Fresh off the bus” aspiring actress, but usually when we see that character in movies, she ends up being a good actress, capable of accomplishing her goals. In Bowfinger, she’s just atrocious and I thought that’s a really fun take. I actually thought Eddie Murphy was the best part of the movie, though. Both of his characters were wildly different, and both made me laugh the most. I say that as someone who isn’t really the biggest Eddie Murphy fan (I only ever really liked him in The Nutty Professor and Dr. Dolittle, and neither is a movie I’ve watched in at least 15 years). He really stood out here as the main reason a lot of the comedy in the movie worked.

Aaron: Interesting. I agree that Eddie was probably the best part, as he had fun with multiple characters without getting too wild about it. I’m curious as to whether you’ve seen much of his 1980s work, as that was probably his prime as a movie star. Although he was better as a comedian than anything else.
Chubby Rain
Michael: The running plot point of the movie is to get the movie Chubby Rain made, and to me that’s hilarious. So many awful movies get made, but it represents something deeper: even the dumbest movie ideas are profound to their creators. 99% of the people in the movie industry have passion toward the projects they’re creating, even if they’re hot garbage fires. I wouldn’t even read the first page of a script called “Chubby Rain” because it’s such a bad name. Really though, this only highlights the heart of Bobby Bowfinger. It makes me actually think about how I should be happy for a filmmaker, even if I don’t like their movies. We’re all just people trying to do our best and if the passion is there, I can appreciate it.

Aaron: The title was a bit ridiculous, but to be honest it’s not that far off from B-Movies from the 1960’s and 1970’s. The explanation for the title got a good laugh out of me, and I can imagine it catching the eye in the same way as something like Soylent Green. As for the part about being happy… yeah, I guess there’s something to that. Getting even a bad film made takes a lot of effort and luck, so it’s nothing to dismiss.

Michael: Paired with the fact that I just saw the new Tommy Wiseau movie, I think I’m becoming a much more sympathetic film viewer. It doesn’t mean the art is good, but I support its creation. I think I arrived on that conclusion for Tusk when we reviewed that a few months back…

Aaron: I was entertained for the entire runtime but was rarely sucked in. There’s a lot of talent here and somehow I think it failed to connect as well as it could have. I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily but I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from watching it either.


Michael: This didn’t hold up as well as I thought it would, but it’s still a very solid comedy with few flaws. It just didn’t have me laughing as hard as it used to (I’d call it clever, but not laugh out loud funny save for a few parts, most of which involve Jiff).


Aaron: This was a weird one for me to rate. Exactly middle of the road.

Michael: Yeah, I remembered it as funnier, but it was a fine movie regardless.

What’s your favorite Steve Martin comedy?

Next week:

Aaron: Well, next week we’ll take a look at a French film that’s about as far away from Bowfinger as one can get.
Michael: Never heard of it, and I don’t even know it’s genre. Intrigued to see what you have in store for me!

Aaron: I remember loving this film the first time I saw it, and I’m curious to see how it holds up.

What are the most memorable first shots for you?

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The final score: review Good
The 411
Bowfinger is a fine comedy with an interesting collection of talented actors. It's also a unique approach to the usual "how we made a movie" plot. We're not over the moon about it, but call it two thumbs in the middle, leaning up.