Bruce Fretts
January 18, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Bowfinger

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
PG-13
performer
Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Heather Graham
director
Frank Oz
Producer
Brian Grazer
genre
Comedy
We gave it an A

Who knew the guy with the arrow through his head would grow into such a sharp wit? Before Jim Carrey and Adam Sandler, Steve Martin was playing dumb and dumber, segueing from stand-up shtickman to star and cowriter of such numbskull farces as ”The Jerk,” ”Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” ”The Man With Two Brains,” and ”Three Amigos!” Then a truly funny thing happened: He embarked on a solo career as an Off Broadway playwright, New Yorker contributor, and Sophisticated Screenwriter, culminating with his sparkling script for the new-to-video Tinseltown satire Bowfinger.

The beautiful irony of ”Bowfinger” is that it’s a terrific script about a terrible script — ”Chubby Rain,” a sci-fi schlockbuster that inspires hack producer Bobby Bowfinger (Martin). He concocts a scheme to make megastar Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) unknowingly appear in the movie. The far-fetched premise holds up because Martin stretches reality far enough to make it funny but not ridiculous.

”Bowfinger” cuts even deeper into Hollywood than Martin’s 1991 depiction of La-La Land, ”L.A. Story,” did — from MindHead (a ballsy spoof of Scientology) to the actress (Heather Graham) whose career instincts are as killer as her body. And finally, Martin has written a role for someone else that’s funnier than his own — in fact, he’s written two. Murphy scores as both paranoid narcissist Kit and his dweeby brother Jiff, an errand boy/body double.

In one of the film’s many moments of lunatic brilliance, Bowfinger dupes Jiff into running across a busy freeway for a scene by telling him the drivers are stuntmen. Crafting a Sophisticated Screenplay is almost as difficult a trick. Now that Martin’s mastered the art, only one question remains: When’s he going to direct?

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