Throughout the 21st Century, Eddie Murphy’s name has become a byword for disappointing studio comedies that see the actor burying himself under a mountain of prosthetics to play multiple characters, and hoping that it passes for humor. It’s no coincidence that two of his best performances in the last 20 years came in dramas, with the 59 year-old scoring an Academy Award nomination for Dreamgirls and a Golden Globe nod for Dolemite Is My Name.
Movies like The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Showtime, Daddy Day Care, Norbit, Meet Dave, Imagine That and more have seen Murphy’s output regularly panned by critics, to the extent that it’s often hard to remember the phenomenal success he experienced at such a young age. His very first feature film was 48 Hrs., an acclaimed box office success that turned him into a star, was credited with launching the entire buddy cop genre and won him a Golden Globe, yet he was only 21 years old when it hit theaters in December 1982.
Before he’d even turned 27, Murphy had headlined comedy classic Trading Places, two Beverly Hills Cop movies and Coming to America, not to mention his stand-up specials Raw and Delirious. That’s incredible when you think about it, and in a recent interview, Coming 2 America director Craig Brewer revealed that he doesn’t think the star has ever gotten the credit he deserves as a comedian.
“It really bothers me. And I feel that it’s even more stilted against Eddie, because the problem that I think people have with Eddie is that they think that it’s easy for him. I’m sure there are many things in Eddie’s life that feel easy. But what people don’t know is what I see, which is him sitting in his chair, in makeup, he’s putting on music, he’s getting into a place, he’s rehearsing these lines. You see him where he doesn’t fool around on set. When you’re in between takes, he goes to his chair and you see him get into this trance where he is working and working and working. There’s craft there. And I worry that people think that like, ‘Oh, well, Eddie’s just showing up and being funny, like he’s always done’. And that’s just not true. Yes, he’s showing up and being hilarious, but it’s not like he’s just flipping a switch.”
The combination of Dolemite and Coming 2 America, the latter of which scored the biggest premiere of the COVID-19 era, has many folks thinking that the comeback is on, and it just might be. Having been a huge name for almost 40 years, it was inevitable that Eddie Murphy’s star would fade at some point, but it looks as though he’s firmly back in the ascendancy.