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Though filmed in 2008, Eddie Murphy's comedy, A Thousand Words, has just been released this weekend. The film follows a fast-talking literary agent, Jack (Murphy), who has developed the ability to get everything that he needs or wants whenever he needs or wants it, but he is suddenly faced with a life or death situation when he realizes he only has 1,000 words left to speak before he dies. Having been used to incorporating words into getting everything in his life, Jack needs to realize when words are most necessary which will transitively make Jack realize what parts of his life are most important and most valuable. From the film's previews and commercials, A Thousand Words appears to be another of Murphy's throw-away comedies, and RottenTomatoes.com seems to agree with that. The site's consensus states, "Dated jokes (A Thousand Words was shot in 2008) and removing Eddie Murphy's voice -- his greatest comedic asset -- dooms this painful mess from the start," and the film has earned a critical consensus of 0%. While this will make many Eddie Murphy fans groan again, I have decided that it is more worthwhile to look back at the films that made us fall in love with Eddie Murphy instead of lament over the ones that have made us hate him. These ten films are worth revisiting because of their impact on Murphy's career and/or because of how they utilize the undeniably talented Murphy. Here are the Top 10 Eddie Murphy Films.
10.Beverly Hills Cop II
Though not nearly as beloved as its predecessor, Beverly Hills Cop II manages to be a product of its time with a late '80s vibe, a funky action-packed style, and an eccentric Murphy at its center as Detective Axel Foley. With director Tony Scott behind the camera (only his third film and immediately following his hit, Top Gun), Beverly Hills Cop II is a dark, violent, funny, and enjoyable sequel. Many will argue that because of the sequels, this franchise never really amounted to much (that is partially true, Beverly Hills Cop III is a definite low point), but Scott's sequel is assuredly an enjoyable viewing process. Granted it will never be remembered as a cult favorite like the original, but Beverly Hills Cop II is sure to give you a reason to rave about Eddie Murphy.
9. Dr. Doolittle
Dr. Doolittle's merits as a movie may be questionable, but as an Eddie Murphy vehicle, it delivers in every single way. Its jokes and themes are definitely more oriented toward the younger crowd, but what makes this gimmicky comic schlock entertaining is Murphy's interactions with the talking animals (featuring an expansive voice cast including Chris Rock, Ellen DeGeneres, Julie Kavner, John Leguizamo, Albert Brooks and Norm MacDonald). Plus, Murphy himself is a highlight, never descending into the cheesy, cringe-worthy kiddie territory he has fallen into as of recently. Though it is far from a smart or even noteworthy comedy, in the filmography of Eddie Murphy, it is definitely one of his better entries as a comic actor.
8. The Nutty Professor
Like Dr. Doolittle, The Nutty Professor needs to be watched with special attention paid to Murphy's comedic performance. It's far from a fine film, but you'll be lying if you say it doesn't make you smile or snicker a handful of times. Donning a plethora of fat suits, Murphy plays the entire Klump family, controlling every character interaction, every gag, every conversation and nuance. It's a complete Eddie Murphy experience, rather than simply another Eddie Murphy vehicle. Sure it's stupid and sure it's corny, but The Nutty Professor is easily one of Murphy's most memorable and more popular films...and far better than its atrocious sequel.
This is a forgotten gem that is not only a smart comment on the politics of filmmaking, but also a thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious comedy. Written by co-star Steve Martin and directed by Frank Oz (the voice of Yoda), Murphy stars as Jiff Ramsey, a high-earning action star who is conned into starring in producer Robert Bowfinger's (Martin) new film by never realizing that he is actually starring in Bowfinger's film. This hidden Murphy/Martin film is definitely one worth seeking out if not only for its enjoyable nature but to witness the combination of talent involved. This late '90s feature is a fine entry in Oz's, Martin's, and especially Murphy's resumés.
This 1998 animated film from Disney is easily the studio's most underrated feature of this kind and from this era. Sandwiched in between The Lion King and the sudden outpour of stunning Pixar films like A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2, Mulan many times falls through the cracks, unfairly. If not for the fantastic original songs ("I'll Make a Man Out of You" is easily one of the best songs from a Disney movie ever), the stunning animated visuals, and its impressive incorporation of cultural themes like duty and familial honor, then Mulan is definitely worth revisiting for its sprightly and exciting characters. Among the best are Shang, awesomely voiced by Donny Osmond, and Mushu, voiced by Eddie Murphy. In a pre-Shrek time, Mushu was a defining moment for Murphy as he made it clear to audiences that Murphy's finest asset is his voice which assures gut-busting comedy. He would revisit voice acting a few years later with Shrek, but to this day I still find Murphy's performance as Mushu thoroughly entertaining and Disney's Mulan to be extraordinarily original and groundbreaking for its time.
5. Trading Places
In this lovable social satire, Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy possess wonderful interplay as a snobby investor and a wild street con artist that suddenly find their social positions switched as a result of a bet played by two callous millionaires. John Landis's easy direction allows for the two comic stars to completely control Trading Places. Though in the almost 30 years since its release, Trading Places definitely has a dated feel, but simultaneously this film is proof of just how awesome the pairing of Aykroyd and Murphy were together under the supervision of John Landis. The SNL alums are magical together and together create one of the finest comedies of the '80s. Regarding Murphy, this is the kind of role he's made for and one that we all wish he would return to.
4. 48 Hours
When it comes to feature film debuts, Eddie Murphy couldn't have asked for a better one. In this Walter Hill-directed action/buddy comedy, Murphy plays a paroled criminal who is paired up with a hard-nosed detective in order to find a killer. Despite the obscure nature of the film (one of the earlier attempts to balance both gritty, violent action with R-rated comedy) and the odd pairing of the film's leads, 48 Hours works brilliantly. Without trying to short change the writing and directing talents of Walter Hill, the film's backbone is the chemistry between Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy. Their banter is what keeps this briskly paced film engaging between all the gunplay, car chases, and explosions. 48 Hours is a fine, early '80s popcorn flick that represents a fabulous introduction into the movies for Eddie Murphy.
There is not much to say about this one, Shrek was a huge success with audiences and critics when it was released in the summer of 2001. With its impressive voice cast, wondrous animation, moral messages, irreverent and smart humor, as well as its ability to utilize a number of beloved fairy tale characters in the plot, Shrek is a one of a kind animated tale that has unfortunately suffered from a surplus of sequels. As Donkey, Eddie Murphy services audiences with the greatest number of laughs, mastering the craft he first attempted back in '98 with Mulan. To date, Shrek is still one of the more enjoyable and humorous animated films, including those of the Pixar realm.
2. Beverly Hills Cop
Axel Foley may not be the most conventional of detectives, but as a result, he is one of the best and funniest. Following a murder investigation in Beverly Hills, Detroit cop Axel Foley finds not only complications from the murderer but from the police force of Beverly Hills as well, trying to fight off Foley since he's out of his jurisdiction. This Martin Brest directed feature originally had Sylvester Stallone attached to star, but was replaced with Murphy when Stallone dropped out. Only two years after his debut in 48 Hours, Murphy's rising status as an actor is what propelled the commercial success of Beverly Hills Cop as well as its aesthetic merits. Murphy brings a lighter mood to a film that could have otherwise been very brooding and dark. The film is fast-paced and action-packed and features flawless comedy from the leading Murphy which makes Axel Foley one of the most iconic film characters, all culminating into one of the defining flicks of the 1980s.
One of the biggest surprises of 2006, Bill Condon's film version of the acclaimed Broadway musical, Dreamgirls, follows an R&B/Soul trio that break the top of record charts in the early 1960s. Featuring electrifying dance numbers and musical performances, Dreamgirls is the best that a movie musical can possibly get. With an all star cast including Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, and Jennifer Hudson (who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this film), Dreamgirls is also a showcase for a powerfully dramatic performance from Eddie Murphy. Claimed to be the comedian's comeback (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor), Murphy plays James "Thunder" Early, another early '60s rock star whose success parallels the titular Dreams, before he becomes engrossed in hardcore drug use. Murphy's atypical performance earned him rave reviews, some of the best he had received in years. His role in Dreamgirls remains to be the comic actor's most mature work to date and, in my opinion, is a performance that will be very difficult for him to either rival or duplicate ever again. While Murphy falls back into immature, kiddie comedies, a genre we all hoped he had finally left behind him, we thankfully can turn to Dreamgirls and find solace in knowing that if his dramatic chops are ever needed once again, Eddie Murphy definitely has the capacity to succeed.
With A Thousand Words now in theaters, do not be surprised if many people are complaining, once again, that Eddie Murphy has completely lost his ability to resonate with audiences. Thankfully, we have at least these 10 films that we can venture back to and revisit and remember why, at one time or another, we were in love with the raw and delirious comedian/movie star, Eddie Murphy.