Lionsgate // 1998 // 66 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 20th, 2010
"What's so funny?"
Between 1980 and 1984, Eddie Murphy was arguably the single most dominant comic force on Saturday Night Live. The show itself was floundering for a significant portion of Murphy's run, but that only allowed Murphy's distinct talents to stand out even more notably. This disc re-presents a 66-minute special that was previously released on DVD and adds some new extras. The following sketches are included in the main feature:
* James Brown's Hot Tub: The disc gets off to a slightly underwhelming start, in which Murphy simply does a James Brown imitation and sings about getting in a hot tub. Energetic but not particularly memorable.
* Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood: For my money, this is one of the classics -- a darkly funny spoof of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood that spotlights a host from a considerably worse neighborhood. It's funny, but there's some stinging social relevance in this one, too.
* Buckwheat Sings: I've never been a huge fan of Murphy's Buckwheat, which seems less a satire of the Little Rascals character than a simple imitation. Still, this is a popular sketch so its inclusion was inevitable.
* White Like Me: One of the stronger pieces on the disc, as Murphy's attempt to pose as a white person for a few days turns into a confirmation of paranoid fantasies. Very much a prelude to the sort of stuff Dave Chappelle would do years later.
* Velvet Jones: Murphy promotes a book entitled "I Want to Be a Ho." Ho, ho, ho.
* Ebony and Ivory: An amusing little piece in which a slightly befuddled Frank Sinatra (Joe Piscopo) finds the Paul McCartney/Stevie Wonder duet "Ebony and Ivory" too confusing and proposes writing a more literal version as a substitute. Murphy's Wonder impression is impressive.
* Black History Minute: The actual sketch (in which Murphy relays a story about George Washington Carver) is kinda funny on its own, but the best bits are Murphy's stern character snapping at the audience for giggling at him.
* Little Richard Simmons Show: A simple concept ("He's Little Richard and Richard Simmons all at once!") that never really goes anywhere interesting.
* Jesse Jackson: The political figure apologizes for a racially insensitive remark in the form of a sensual R&B song elegantly entitled "Hymietown." A nice of-the-moment inclusion.
* Buckwheat is Shot: Buckwheat is shot, and the other Little Rascals react. Piscopo plays Ted Koppel. The piece is essentially a satire of the overbearing nature of the news media, but sadly it pales in comparison to what actually occurs on the 24-hour new networks today.
* Prose and Cons: A documentary-style piece demonstrating the way in which the American penal system inspires its inmates to become pretentious literary figures. Murphy performs a poem entitled "Kill My Landlord."
* Career Corner: In a sketch that clearly inspired Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Murphy plays The Tooth Fairy. The fairy appears on a talk show to talk about the complications of his profession. At the very least, it's funnier than the entire Tooth Fairy film. "I'm a fairy, dammit. I have feelings, too."
* Gumby: Everyone's favorite former little green ball of clay is now an elderly Jewish man. It's a so-so sketch, but fun to see Murphy riffing with Billy Crystal, Martin Short and Christopher Guest.
* The 5th Beatle: Murphy plays a man claiming that he founded The Beatles and wrote most of their music. There's some potential here, but not much of a punchline.
* Buckwheat is Dead: A follow-up to the "Buckwheat is Shot" sketch which basically rehashes most of the same gags.
* Solomon & Pudge: Two guys in a bar (Murphy and Piscopo) look over a newspaper and talk about the headlines. Man, there's an awful lot of Piscopo on this disc.
* The Stevie Wonder Story: Murphy teaches the actual Stevie Wonder how to do a Stevie Wonder impression. Wonder's intentionally horrible impression of himself is a riot.
The video quality on the disc ranges from poor to acceptable, but I suppose this isn't really the sort of thing that demands sparkling detail. Audio is similarly middling, getting the job done without ever really impression. There's some distortion from time to time.
The only difference between this version of Saturday Night Live: The Best of Eddie Murphy and the previous DVD release is that this disc has thrown in a generous handful of bonus sketches that can be accessed in the extras section: "Monologue" (4 minutes), "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood/Bitch" (4 minutes), "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood/Xmas" (3 minutes), "Hairdresser" (6 minutes), "Gumby & Letterman" (4 minutes), "Velvet Jones" (2 minutes), "Guardian Angel" (2 minutes) and "Focus on Film" (4 minutes). This batch is more or less as hit-and-miss as the main batch of episodes. You also get a still gallery and 5 minutes of outtakes.
While Saturday Night Live: The Best of Eddie Murphy contains some comic gems, it also contains a lot of filler. If you're interested, I suppose this latest release is the way to go.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 66 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Sketches