Eddie Murphy, one of the most naturally funny men in Hollywood, had a fascinating filmography in which his career can be distinguished in clear arcs of differing success and body of work. I decided to look back at Eddie Murphy at what he was, what he became and what he is now.
About the man
Now if you don't know who Eddie Murphy is (which I find borderline impossible) he is a comedian/actor who made some of the most successful comedic films in the 1980s as well as very well performing family films in the late 90s-early 00s. He started as a stand-up comedian before finding mainstream success in joining Saturday Night Live as a regular cast member. He made his film debut in 1982 with 48 hrs
Meteoric Rise to fame
For a large portion of the eighties Eddie Murphy had hit after hit in the box-office such as 48 hrs
, Trading Places
, Beverly Hills Cop
and Coming to America
. These films were fantastic as they really played to Eddie Murphy's natural charisma and the actors he was often paired with in these film played an excellent counter to his wise-cracking personality. These films established Eddie Murphy as a bankable star in which he himself was a proven draw to garner blockbuster numbers on his films, such as the Beverly Hills Cop franchise in which the first film made $234 Million (1984 money which is a lot) and was the 2nd biggest hit that year behind Ghostbusters. There was of course films like The Golden Child
and Best Defense
which suffered from poor plot and poor execution of Eddie Murphy's character and relied solely on his bankability rather than substance of the film.
Eddie also released two very successful stand-up comedy films Delirious
which showcased Eddie Murphy's comedic talents in a stand-up situation to a wide-spread audience. The year 1982-1988 were very good to Eddie Murphy in which he was a massive draw and had one success after another but from 1989-mid 1990s his career took a different turn.
In 1989 Eddie Murphy made his directorial debut with the film Harlem Nights
which united Murphy on-screen with the legendary Richard Pryor. Though financially successful the film received a negative reception by critics. The 90s roared in with moderate successes and failures such as Another 48 hrs
, the deplorable Boomerang
, The Distinguished Gentlemen
and the disappointing Beverly Hills Cop III
The flaws with films from these periods is simply the fact that these films did not showcase Eddie Murphy's strength as a comedic actor as the previous films by pairing him with an excellent contrasting character, were poorly written/executed or a combination of both. It was like Eddie Murphy releasing five films the quality of The Golden Child in succession. The sequential disappointments hurt Eddie Murphy's ability to sell himself as a box-office draw and the current film formula he's used since the inception of his career simply wasn't working anymore so an obvious change of direction was needed.
In 1996 Eddie Murphy released the hit film The Nutty Professor
which was a significant revelation in Eddie Murphy's career because he had achieved mainstream success in a family accessible film. Eddie Murphy was still making films in a similar manner as his slump era but he was easing towards the family friendly market with films such as Mulan
, Dr Dolittle
and Daddy Day Care
Unfortunately Eddie Murphy still has awful material and awful films made during this period to counter balance his success with films like the horrid Holy Man
and Meet Dave
performing poorly all around and Pluto Nash
being an absolute financial disaster continue to hurt Eddie Murphy's credibility as a marketable comedic draw.
I don't know what has happened to Eddie Murphy's non-family films in recent times as the decline in quality is astounding, even with films that have $70M-$100M budgets. Eddie Murphy is no longer Eddie Murphy in a film sense. They tried to recapture the buddy comedy he was so strong at in the film Showtime
with Robert DeNiro but it just didn't work as well as his classic 80's films and whether it was chemistry or plot it wasn't as good.
Another thing Eddie Murphy does in some films is the ability to play multiple characters with the use of heavy make-up and using his comedic talents to portray a completely different character. This is best exemplified in Coming to America in which he and Arsenio Hall could carry entire scenes based on the multiple characters they portrayed. This further evolved in The Nutty Professor in which he portrayed the entire family before the joke went to far and overused in the sequel and the horrid Norbit. All of the strengths Eddie Murphy had as a comedic actor seems to fade away during these years hich is a pity because I honestly believe he is purely one of the funniest people on the planet.
I decided to write this blog after I learned that Beverly Hills Cop 4 was possibly in the works for 2010 and I pondered if it could recapture the magic he had in the 80s or will it resemble his more recent films and will not fit the Eddie Murphy of today. Maybe he can carry his performance from Dreamgirls into more future drama pieces where we can see Eddie Murphy being Eddie Murphy. Only time will tell what kin of legacy Eddie Murphy will end up with.