In the 1980s, the release of a new Eddie Murphy movie was an event. Aside from Michael Jackson, Murphy was, for a period of time, the most famous person in America.
His SNL skits, his stand-up specials and, more than anything else, his initial run of films captured a massive cross-section of American viewers in a way we’d not really seen before.
Everybody liked Eddie. Men and women. White and black. Educated and uneducated. Rich and poor. Old and young. If there’s one thing everyone seemed to agree on, it was that Murphy was the funniest person alive.
The phenomenon that was 1980s Eddie Murphy is documented in the opening segments of his 1987 stand-up special/documentary hybrid film, Raw, in which we see footage of the Michael Jackson-like fandom Eddie saw everywhere he went. That film is now available on Netflix, but that’s not the big news this week.
This past Friday, Amazon Prime released Coming 2 America, a not-terrible sequel to Eddie’s 1988 classic, Coming to America. If you like the original, I think 2 is worth checking out, albeit with the slightest of expectations.
This is where Murphy lives now, in the past, visiting his old hits. In addition to his return to Zamunda, Murphy will be returning to the Beverly Hills Cop franchise to reprise his role as Axel Foley. He recently returned to SNL and is about to start filming Triplets, a sequel to Ivan Reitman’s 1988 comedy classic Twins.
If I had my wish, Murphy would be working with P.T. Anderson, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, or even David O. Russell. But that’s not what Murphy does. He doesn’t pick his projects by who is directing them, he picks them by how strongly the script serves his skill set. If anything, it’s been suggested that since his initial run in the ’80s, when he worked with a number of great filmmakers, Murphy stays away from big-name directors.
Why? Most suggest it’s an ego thing. If one of his films is successful, it needs to be because of Murphy, not because of anyone else. Looking over his IMDb page with that filter is the only way I can make sense of his career after 1989.
And, ups and downs aside, what a career it’s been. Murphy is mostly thought of as a star of the ’80s, but in actuality, he’s kinda sorta been a constant in our lives since 1980, if mostly as the voice of Donkey from the Shrek movies for the last 20 years.
And now we’ve landed where we so often have during the cinema void that has been the Covid-era: Listville. That’s right, an Eddie Murphy Top 10. How could I resist?
1. Beverly Hills Cop 2 (Director: Tony Scott)
2. 48 Hrs. (Director: Walter Hill)
3. Beverly Hills Cop (Director: Martin Brest)
4. Trading Places (Director: John Landis)
5. Dolemite Is My Name (Director: Craig Brewer)
6. Coming to America (Director: John Landis)
7. Bowfinger (Director: Frank Oz)
8. Life (Director: Ted Demme)
9. Boomerang (Director: Reginald Hudlin)
10. The Nutty Professor (Director: Tom Shadyac)
Nope, I didn’t include any of the Shrek films and nope, I didn’t include Dreamgirls.
But that’s not the problem with this list. The issue is that most of these films are over 30 years old now.
In the same way I wish Tom Cruise would stop doing action films and start doing dramas with auteurs again, I wish Murphy would put his trust into great filmmakers again, like he did when he worked with Walter Will, Martin Brest, and Tony Scott.
But, for now, we get Coming 2 America and Triplets, essentially remakes of films that don’t need to be remade.
C’mon, Eddie, get it together. Give us one last run.