Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for violence, language, drug content
Run Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Does it get any more bizarre than Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro as comic sidekicks? The pair’s surprisingly witty repartee is the only good feature of “Showtime”; unfortunately there’s precious little of it.
A potentially funny buddy film encased in a bad action-adventure movie – ugh. De Niro is LAPD detective Mitch Preston, a no-nonsense cop who doesn’t jump hoods, roll cars, or make life-or-death choices between red and blue wires. Preston serves and protects, and that’s good enough for him. Patrol Officer Trey Sellars (Murphy) is his complete opposite, a show-boating egomaniac who would rather be stage acting than busting pickpockets.
When Sellars mistakenly stumbles onto one of Preston’s undercover drug operations, the fur flies. Sellars calls for big time back-up, and the bust turns into a three-ring circus of gunplay, helicopters and TV news crews. Preston watches months of undercover work go down the tubes and takes out his frustrations on an innocent news camera. The TV studio threatens the precinct with a $10 million lawsuit, but reluctantly agrees to drop the charges if Preston will star in a high-profile (read: great PR) police reality show called “Showtime”. Suddenly the lonesome detective is a media superstar whose every move is tracked by TV cameras, and whose new “partner” is the cocky, camera-ready Sellars.
De Niro and Murphy are the yin and yang of the police force, playing off each other with an edgy dislike that translates into genuine laughs. But sloppy construction and a ludicrous subplot involving a South American weapons smuggler (whose high-tech rifles take down buildings but can’t penetrate the sandbags our heroes are hiding behind) drag down the energy, allowing it to surface in mere fits and starts.
The ninety-five minute running time looked be a plus, allowing for tight humor and little in the way of loose ends. Wrong. Miles of footage have been left on the cutting room floor, disrupting the narrative flow and leaving gaping holes in what little characterization already exists. Rene Russo is horribly miscast as a highly ambitious PR whiz who may or may not have a thing for Preston. Color me disappointed.