Boomerang (1992) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexuality, language, sexual references, and nudity
Running Time: 117 min.
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, David Alan Grier, Martin Lawrence, Grace Jones, Geoffrey Holder, Eartha Kitt, Chris Rock, Tisha Campbell, Lela Rochon, John Witherspoon, Bebe Drake-Massey, Melvin Van Peebles (cameo), Reginald Hudlin (cameo), Warrington Hudlin (cameo)
Director: Reginald Hudlin
Screenplay: Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield
Review published February 13, 2006
The period of Eddie Murphy's career between Coming to America in 1987 and The Nutty Professor in 1996 has always been considered a darker period, with Murphy struggling to retain his superstar status only to find commercial failure. While audiences generally dismiss Murphy's output during this period as inconsequential, looking back in hindsight, some of these films represent his strongest work as a leading man, even if they lacked the pizzazz and chutzpah of his work during the early to mid-1980s.
By this point, people were unwilling to accept Murphy in almost anything but wise-cracking comedies or semi-action vehicles, leaving theaters showing more suave comedies like The Distinguished Gentleman and Boomerang mostly empty after the initial opening week. While Boomerang has its share of problems, most notably in its excessive length and occasional dips into needlessly cheap humor, it is also one of Murphy's most underrated of films. With nearly perfect casting and refreshingly loose banter among the players, it is clear that this is a film where the everyone had a good time making it, and it shows in nearly every vibrant scene.
Murphy stars as advertising exec Marcus Graham, successful at work, and in the bedroom. He has a reputation for being a playboy, although he doesn't really want to be one -- he just seems to lose interest after the relationships have been consummated. Due to a recent merger, Murphy finds himself with a new boss, the sultry, intelligent Jacqueline Broyer (Givens, Head of State), every bit Marcus' equal in talent at work, and in the bedroom. Now that he's found his match, Marcus also finds himself on the other end of the relationship spectrum, falling for a woman that only uses him to have a good time. Marcus doesn't know what to do about his newfound feelings of being the submissive on in the relationship, leaving him as needy and confused as all of the women he loved an left in a hurry.
Boomerang is director Reginald Hudlin's sophomore effort after making a splash with the sleeper hit comedy, House Party. As he did in that film, Hudlin continues his trend of showcasing positive African-American characters, bucking the typical Hollywood trend of sensationalized gangster melodramas whenever dealing with predominantly Black casts. However, unlike House Party, which tended to downplay overt messages about race, Boomerang has a few scenes where it does become an issue. While these moments play for laughs, they seem mostly gratuitous from a story standpoint, and weaken the focus whenever they occur.
The real strength of the film lies in the quality of the casting, with an eclectic mix of different personalities, with each actor perfectly suited for his or her role. Murphy plays the playboy role quite well, as does Givens as the strong vixen, Berry (Bulworth, X-Men) as the vulnerable good girl, and Grier (Return to Me, Bewitched) as the kind-hearted friend of them all. However, the film's best lines graciously go to its supporting cast of characters, with memorable appearances by uber-vamp Grace Jones (A View to a Kill, Conan the Destroyer), sexy predator Eartha Kitt (Holes, Erik the Viking), and smart jokes from comedians John Witherspoon (The Ladies Man, Friday), Chris Rock (Beverly Hills Ninja, Lethal Weapon 4) and Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys, Life). Credit Hudlin for being able to keep this impressive cast from running rampant over the movie's story, while also allowing them the freedom to adlib some choice material to enhance the overall flavor.
As a romantic comedy, Boomerang is refreshing and successful, although at nearly two hours in length, a great deal of the momentum starts to wane, especially due to the final scenes being more serious in tone. By this point, however, the entertainment quotient has already been met, and we actually do begin to care about the ultimate fate of the film's wishy-washy main character and where his loyalties lie. Still, a bit of trimming here and there would have done a world of good, as it is confusing just what the movie's supposed to be about at times.
While this is one of Murphy's better films in this point in his career, it's ironic to see him in a film about a man that loses his appeal by trying to lessen his reputation as a misogynistic player. By trying to remake himself as a debonair romantic lead, Murphy would also lessen his own popularity, as audiences weren't willing to explore his charismatic, softer side. What goes around, comes around, as they say; Boomerang wasn't the "comeback" vehicle Murphy had hoped it would be.
©2006 Vince Leo