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Robert DeNiro is high among my all time favorite actors. In the past few years he's really lightened up and shown us his comedic side, I must opine, in truth, that his forrays into the realm of comedy have been uneven (Analyze This and Meet the Parents) for example mediocre faire. Clearly, his best role in a comedy was Martin Breast's Midnight Run, a film that showcased his knack for swift, dead-pan timing. I also enjoyed him in We're No Angels, Neil Jordan's little seen movie with co-star Sean Penn.
Showtime finds DeNiro trading comic blows with Eddie Murphy. A star who's been blinking in and out, but seems to have pulled out of a career skid with his wonderful voice-over performance as Shrek's lovable ass). Still the big question is do DeNiro and Murphy make a good comic team? Sadly, no. But this is mostly the fault of the stilted screenplay.
In Showtime, DeNiro is a tough, veteran cop who gets the job done by the book. Murphy is relatively new to the force. He's a wisecracking yet likable guy who moonlights as an actor. He get's his chance to have the best of both worlds when TV show developer Renee Russo decides to create a reality series using Murphy and DeNiro as it's subjects. Naturally, DeNiro hates the idea, but is ordered to team with Murphy or face an extended leave. In typical buddy-movie fashion, there is much friction between the two partners, but as you might expect they set aside their differences in order to thwart a crew of foreign bad-guys who run around town wreaking havoc with a new type of gun.
DeNiro is pretty smooth here. He doesn't have to force the character like he did in Analyze This, but he isn't exactly brimming with depth either. We've seen his seasoned cop in dozens of other movies. Murphy isn't given much to do either, there are no vintage Axel Foley moments here. Together, the two never really generate a genuine chemistry (ala Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon movies). They just seem to be going through the motions.
Director Tom Dey had it better with Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan in his last picture, the fun Shanghai Noon (he's now working on the sequel). As I sat through Showtime I was reminded of John Badham's hilarious, The Hard Way starring Michael J. Fox and James Woods as an actor and the cop he's studying. That movie had energy and it's stars had chemistry. Showtime never really lifts off the ground. It just kind of lumbers along from one obvious scene to the next offering very few surprises. Despite sounding good and offering a few funny moments, Showtime really isn't very memorable.
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