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  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan

from Film Forum, 03/21/02

In last year's thriller 15 Minutes, Robert DeNiro played a cop whose dangerous job was disrupted when the media got involved and made a spectacle of it. This year he's in a comedy called Showtime, but his situation hasn't changed much. Directed by Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon), Showtime matches a tough cop (DeNiro) and a tough-talking celebrity-cop (Eddie Murphy) for the development of a new "reality TV" show about crime-fighting on the streets. They find it hard to get their job done, especially when their acting coach turns out to be William Shatner. Soon, they're on the trail of a gang of crooks, dodging cameras all the while.

The movie's general message seems to be: What you see on "reality TV" is not always what you get. Ironically, critics claim Showtime isn't all it's cracked up to be either. Even though DeNiro and Murphy are two of the big screen's most talented comedians—yes, DeNiro can be very funny—the laughs are falling flat.

Mary Draughon (Preview) argues, "There's no deep message or moral to the story except forget your worries and have a little fun." But she concludes," Showtime clearly deserves an 'R' rating for foul language and excessive violence. When will Hollywood learn that entertainment doesn't require 'reality' to be real?"

The USCCB's critic calls it a "cookie-cutter comedy … with one-dimensional characters and autopilot performances. Dey's contrived comedy never gathers enough momentum to produce anything more than a few chuckles."

Phil Boatwright found "some funny moments … but it lacks any real satirical edge. The material doesn't live up to the cast's ability."

Steven Isaac (Focus on the Family) says, "Showtime has very little to do with [its] flimsy story. Instead, it has everything to do with huge fireballs, frantic car chases, and an exploding swimming pool. Showtime is nothing more than Beverly Hills Cop VIII meets Lethal Weapon IX with a dose of TV's COPS thrown in for fun."

Michael Elliott says, "Dey … and a trio of screenwriters have a workable premise from which to build but they simply don't take it far enough. Their film is riddled with missed opportunities, missing punch lines, improbable scenarios, and stereotypically written characters."

Holly McClure liked it better than most: "Pairing DeNiro and Murphy together was movie magic. I just think Showtime could have been a better story if the movie would have made the audience take it a little more seriously."

Mainstream critics called it a disappointment. MaryAnn Johanson says it's "shockingly underwritten: bad guys have little motivation other than being clichÉd action-flick bad guys, entire scenes feel like they've been left out, and the few moments of real, original humor come and go and are never capitalized on. When an appearance by William Shatner is the biggest cause for celebration, you know a movie's in trouble. Showtime's in trouble."

Roger Ebert says, "I learn from the Internet Movie Database that [Tom Dey] studied film at Brown University, the Centre des Etudes Critiques in Paris, and the American Film Institute. He probably knows what's wrong with this movie more than I do. My guess: The screenplay was funnier and more satirical until the studio began to doubt the intelligence of the potential audience, and decided to shovel in more action as insurance."