A player who's about to be played.
The moral of Boomerang is best summed up by these pearls of wisdom from Jimmy Soul:
"If you wanna be happy
Of course, in the fantasy world of Hollywood, Halle Berry is the ugly girl.
Facts of the Case
Marcus Graham (Eddie Murphy) is a wealthy and ambitious marketing executive for a major cosmetics company. But that's just his job. By nature, he's a lothario, spending every free moment seducing beautiful women and sharing the details of his exploits with his two less successful (both in business and sex) buddies, Tyler and Gerard (comedians Martin Lawrence and David Alan Grier of Martin and In Living Color, respectively).
Marcus' world is turned upside-down when his company is bought out by cosmetics tycoon Lady Eloise and he meets his new boss, Jacqueline Broyer (Robin Givens—Blankman). In Jacqueline he meets his match. She's the one woman who can beat him at his own game of sexual one-upmanship. Time spent in the shoes of his used conquests gives Marcus a new perspective on romance and opens him to the possibility of true love.
Boomerang was released in 1992, at the tail-end of Eddie Murphy's reign as one of Hollywood's top draws, a sure-fire leading man who guaranteed box office success. It's a gem in the sense that it was a step in a new direction at a time in Murphy's career when he was beginning to repeat himself in desperate attempts to hold onto his once white-hot popularity (the film was released between Beverly Hills Cop II and III and immediately after Another 48 Hours). Having made a name for himself as a comic action hero, Murphy appears in Boomerang as a Hollywood romantic lead. He's a natural. He plays Marcus Graham with easy charm, intelligence, and style. Given Graham's nature as a shallow lothario, it's no mean feat that Murphy makes it so easy for us to like with him—he charms us as expertly as he does his female victims.
Boomerang pulled in around $70 million in the U.S. on a $40 million budget, but additional romantic comedy roles for Murphy likely fell victim to studios' expectations that the star would deliver $100-plus million returns, as he'd done with his action fare. It's a shame. If a romantic comedy that made that much in domestic returns in 1992 (and around $130 million worldwide) is a disappointment, it's only because the studio didn't set reasonable goals based on the film's genre.
Bolstering Murphy's strong performance is a long list of talented and perfectly-cast comedians and actors. Robin Givens is dead-on as the icy, intelligent Jacqueline. Her performance is so strong in terms of tone and rhythm, it's easy to underestimate the disastrous results of casting an actress in the role of Jacqueline unable to stand toe-to-toe with Murphy, to dominate him in some scenes. Lawrence and Grier are perfectly cast as Murphy's friends. Lawrence's Tyler is brash, smart, and neurotic, while Grier's Gerard is timid, smart, and neurotic. Despite their surface differences, the two are believable friends because they share smarts and neuroses, but also because we sense a genuine fondness between the two. In their scenes together, they perform with ease a complex dance in which each alternates between aggressively delivered comedy and acting as straight man to each other and to Murphy.
Tertiary supporting roles are equally well-cast. As an office mailroom worker, Chris Rock does what he does best: fire off quick, hilarious one-liners laced with pop culture references. Tisha Campbell (Martin) delivers a funny, if one-dimensional, turn as Marcus' disgruntled and prying neighbor. Geoffrey Holder, the mellifluously-voiced actor from those old 7-Up commercials, takes a fun turn as the wildly tasteless director of TV commercials, Nelson. John Witherspoon and Bebe Drake are a scream as Gerard's outspoken, polyester-wearing, chitlin'-eating parents. Eartha Kitt, a pop-culture icon for having shared the role of Catwoman with Julie Newmar in the old Batman TV series, plays the horny and eccentric Lady Eloise with a bizarre friskiness that reminds one of…well…Eartha Kitt. And to top things off, we have Grace Jones (A View To a Kill) playing an exaggerated version of her own public image, the vain, pretentious, and downright nutty French supermodel, Strangé.
All these personalities vying for attention could've resulted in a mess of a film, except Murphy's in the center of it all, funny and charming and, frankly, managing to dominate the comic goings-on like the alpha dog of the pack, while being generous and open with his fellow performers. He comes off as so confident in his own skills that the thought of being upstaged by one of the other players never crosses his mind. And, good as they are, none of them ever manages to steal the show.
If none of Murphy's co-stars manages to steal the show, neither does Paramount's DVD presentation, which boasts a passable 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, a new Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix, and a couple middle-of-the-road extras. Everything about the disc is mediocre. The transfer is relatively soft with a fair amount of grain and some noticeable dirt from the source. It's not a bad transfer; it's just not particularly good. The audio actually has very brief and isolated moments of aggressive use of surrounds (check out the opening title sequence), and dialogue is crystal clear so there's nothing to complain about there.
The only extras on the disc are an audio commentary by director Reginald Hudlin (The Ladies Man), and a selection of deleted scenes. Hudlin's commentary is, frankly, dull. To be fair, though, I've listened to so many commentaries at this point that, unless the speaker is either very witty or provides insightful, film-school type information, they tend to bore me. What does shine through is Hudlin's love of his film and how much he enjoyed working with his cast. I just couldn't help think that if they'd somehow managed to get Murphy to sit down with him, it probably would've been a great track.
There are five deleted scenes that run anywhere from 18 seconds to nearly two minutes. The video quality of the clips varies; some are in poor shape, showing extensive grain and damage to the source. Still, there's some funny stuff. Some of the clips are extensions of existing scenes and provide insight into how Hudlin worked, giving his actors plenty of room to improvise and just be funny, then harvesting the best portions of the performances in the editing room, excising much of the hammy, over-the-top stuff. The deleted scenes have an alternate audio track with commentary by Hudlin, who explains what each scene is, where it would've appeared in the film, and why it was left out. It's your standard deleted scenes commentary.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite how funny it is, Boomerang has a major problem in its third act. Angela Lewis (Halle Berry, Monster's Ball), a cute but unimportant character in the first two acts, suddenly ascends to romantic lead. Apparently, Jacqueline Broyer is too strong a female lead to deserve Marcus' undying love. She's too glamorous, too self-sufficient, too powerful…too masculine. So, we're given Angela, a talented and ambitious professional woman, self-assured enough to demand Marcus' fidelity, while demure in the tradition of female romantic leads. It convolutes the love story and makes the film's third act feel rushed. Besides, Murphy has far more raw chemistry with Givens than he does with Berry (just watch the interplay between Marcus and Jacqueline in chapter 5; nothing that smart and charming happens between Marcus and Angela).
Marcus and Jacqueline could've been like Hildy Johnson and Walter Burns in Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday: so equal in smarts, talent, and ambition that they are the only ones capable of saving each other from their worst impulses, making each other happy. Boomerang's makers, it seems, were scared away by Jacqueline's sexuality…or maybe they were so caught up in the film as an Eddie Murphy star vehicle that they couldn't see the picture as a story about two lovers. Either way, its third act is a major let-down.
Even with its clunky final half-hour, Boomerang is a consistently funny film. For Murphy lovers it's a must; for those tired of seeing the faded star in retread action flicks, this should be a nice change of pace.
Hudlin, Murphy, and the rest of the cast and crew of Boomerang are found innocent of all charges. Despite a couple of missteps, they've delivered a film that is funny and entertaining.
Paramount has once again slapped a $24.95 price tag on a disc of a catalogue film with a mediocre transfer and few extras. Honestly, $14.95 would be pressing the bounds of decency based on the content of the disc. Paramount is guilty, guilty, guilty. And because I've had to render this same verdict so many times in the past, I find the studio in contempt—not only of this court, but of the DVD community as a whole. It can continue this recidivist behavior despite the growing disdain of the movie-buying public, or it can choose to reform. The choice is Paramount's.
This court's in recess.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Reginald Hudlin
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