Will playing Richard Pryor save Eddie Murphy’s career?

Who swiped Murphys mojo?

Who swiped Murphy's mojo?

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when a new Eddie Murphy movie was a reason to get’cher popcorn ready.

Hey man, Eddie’s got a new movie comin’ out.  We got to see that bad boy on Day One!

Not so much now.  A Eddie Murphy movie is a excuse to dump the kids off something that’s bland, safe and innocuous.   Mr. Murphy has mastered the not-so-fine art of PG comedies that provide a few scattered laughs and disappear from the memory like yesterday’s meatloaf.

Reggie Hammond and Axel Foley were trampled underneath the weight of a nutty professor, Dr. Doolittle,  day camp daddies, donkeys and a whole lot of fat suits.

Murphy admits he’s not the wild man he once was.  The tiger has been tamed, the F-bombs rarely are dropped on-screen more and cranking out kid-friendly fodder is something he’s comfortable with.

“I’m such a square, but I’m supposed to be. I’m 48, and you’re supposed to be the square. I mean being a 48-year-old rebel is not cool. The one thing that’s remained consistent is my sense of humor, which has always been unique. But, I’m older than I was and I could never give off whatever I used to give off when, you know, I had on a red leather suit on stage talking shit. I’ll never be that guy again. But, at the same time, I’ve never stopped being that person. It’s just that I’m an adult now.”

“I’m just trying to do all different types of things. I don’t feel like I’ve made a transition to more family stuff. I feel like I’ve always, from the beginning, just done different types of things. I jumped over cars and shot my gun, and I cursed, and I did all kinds of stuff. But, I like that my kids and families can go see some of my movies too. Would I ever do action comedy or play a cop? Of course, but does it have to be Beverly Hills Cop 4? Not necessarily.” link

Murphy isn’t the first formerly actor with a ballsy persona that traded it in for the comfort zone of safe, dull roles and even safer, duller movies and he won’t be the last.   Maybe he’s right about 48-year-old rebels being something of an oxymoron, but does that mean he won’t try anything ever again that isn’t predictable as hell?

Looking at what Murphy’s got in the pipeline, the answer would seem to be “no.”

Among Murphy’s next three confirmed projects are The Incredible Shrinking Man and Shrek Forever After (which are both self-explanatory) and something called “A Thousand Words” about a man who is told he can utter 1,000 words before he dies.

Sounds hilarious.

As for Axel Fucking Foley, there is something called Beverly Hills Cop IV which if you get a lobotomy and forget the last two sequels might even be good.  I’m sure all the Judge Reinhold fans out there (both of ’em) will be very excited.

There’s also a remake of Fantasy Island with The Artist Formerly Known as  Mr. Fuck You Man threatened.  Kill me now.

Remember the brother who made Delirious and 48 hrs and was so edgy and funny and promising Siskel and Ebert devoted a show giving him career advice?   That Eddie Murphy would kick this Eddie Murphy’s ass for going softer than a ice cream cone in the Sahara.

It wasnt all that funny when Eddie met Richard on-screen, but it could be the key to saving Murphy from kiddie flicks.

It wasn't all that funny when Eddie met Richard on-screen, but it could be the key to saving Murphy from kiddie flicks.

Who among us though wouldn’t be a sell-out for big money?  What else could possibly explain cinematic shitstorms like Daddy Day Care, Meet Dave, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy,  or Norbit.

Eddie Murphy simply doesn’t matter any more.  He’s not on a losing streak of crap movies.  He is a crap actor who makes crap movies.

And that’s a damn shame because Murphy is one of the most naturally charismatic actors ever to step before a camera.    But if he doesn’t seem to care about what type of movies he makes, why the hell should I?

There are no good movies in Mr. Murphy’s future unless his Richard Pryor bio comes to fruition.   The bio-pic would reteam Murphy with Bill Condon, the director of Dreamgirls.   He was considered a slam dunk for a Best Supporting Actor award but lost it to Alan Arkin after Norbit killed off every ounce of the good will for Murphy’s first Academy Award bid.

Could Murphy play Pryor?  I say yes, even though their collaboration, Harlem Nights was a messy, but well-meaning misfire.  Though Murphy’s career arc has landed him squarely in Bill Cosby territory, his roots are in the slightly unhinged and far more controversial world of Richard Pryor.

I never could buy even a bulked-up Will Smith as Muhammad Ali.   I would totally be there for Murphy as Pryor.  There isn’t a physical resemblance between the two comedians, but down in the soul and essence of Pryor, nobody is more qualified to tap into it than Murphy.

For the chance of a return to the Eddie Murphy that was such a bad mutha I’d almost be willing to forgive a Fantasy Island remake.

Almost.

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