Can Eddie Murphy's career be saved? Movie experts offer advice to the three-time box-office loser
Owen Wilson, Eddie Murphy, ...

Talk about Murphy's Law: Eddie Murphy has had one rotten run of luck at the box office lately. In addition to "I Spy"'s lame duck showing (the $70 million action comedy has grossed just $30.9 million since opening Nov. 1), Murphy has also laid eggs with the Robert DeNiro buddy comedy "Showtime" (which brought in a tepid $38 million) and the sci-fi stinker "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" (the $100 million extravaganza made a paltry $4 million). Maybe it's time for the "Dr. Doolittle" star to stop talking to the animals and have a few words with his agent. asked industry professionals what the "Saturday Night Live" alum can do to get back on track.

Forget edgy… for now Sure, Murphy's had three high profile bombs in a row, but before that? Last year's "Dr. Doolittle 2" grossed a snazzy $113 million. "Shrek" and "The Nutty Professor 2" didn't do too shabbily, either. While Murphy made his mark as a trash-talking wise-ass in movies like "Beverly Hills Cop," it may be time to admit a cuddly Eddie is the real draw these days. "The audience that grew up watching him on ‘Saturday Night Live' has gotten older and has kids now, and that has given him a niche when it comes to family entertainment," says casting director Billy Hopkins. And the truth is, his recent buddy comedies haven't been hip enough to appeal to those all-important teen males, who may want a star closer to their own age group instead of a 41-year-old father of 4. To that end, Murphy seems headed in the right direction. He next stars in "Daddy Day Care" (a comedy about an unemployed dad's free-spirited day care center opening May 9), "The Haunted Mansion" (based on Disney's theme ride), and "Shrek 2" (for 2004).

Seek out fresh talent If Murphy isn't content to stick solely with family fare, he should partner up with a hotshot director who can find a novel way to repackage his image. Hey, it worked for Adam Sandler, who's scored a critical, if not commercial, hit with Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love." "When a comedic actor takes a chance and pulls it off, it's usually with the director you'd least expect him to work with," says media analyst Gitesh Pandya of "He needs to look for directors with a unique sensibility." Unique, but not serious. Even if Murphy can handle heavy drama, fans don't often line up to see a comedian go deep in a leading role. Just ask Jim Carrey.