JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The decline and insignificance of Eddie Murphy

As a teen growing up in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 90s, I refused to miss an Eddie Murphy movie. I’m not 100 percent certain, but I believe my love for all things Eddie began with his late SNL days, when the Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood routine blew my mind. From there, it was on to Delirious, and a string of films that cracked me up—whether they were actually good or not:

48 Hours—off-the-charts great.

Trading Places—equally good, but much funnier.

Beverly Hills Cop—Sucky in hindsight, but hilarious to any right-minded 12-year old.

The Golden Child—Historically bad. But, again, as a teen, I loved it.

Coming to America—An all-time legendary comedy. His best film.

Then—poof! Murphy started to stink. Like, really stink. The man with the golden touch brought us Another 48 Hours. And The Distinguished Gentleman (not the worst move ever, but far removed from classic Eddie). And Vampire in Brooklyn. And The Nutty Professor (gag me. Please, gag me). And Metro. One after another after another, Murphy’s films just sucked (With one exception: The underrated Bowfinger, which I consider to be, at times, borderline brilliant. Just watch this scene, for example). Even Raw, his second cinematic stand-up event, was just sorta meh. OK, but nothing great.

I bring this up because, moments ago, I read the New York Times review of Murphy’s latest flick, Imagine That. Stephen Holden’s conclusion: It bites.

So how has America’s funniest man devolved from uproarious to unwatchable? Simple—he sold out. Beginning with The Nutty Professor, Murphy started settling; signing up for the big-money projects that required little originality or imagination. Whether or not, say, Beverly Hills Cop was a good movie, it was indisputably fresh and lively and unique. Now, Murphy plays the same character time after time: Winking buffoon with a heart of gold. With the exception of Dreamgirls, it’s what he does. The Murphy who used to sling insults and offend everyone now laughs softly and delivers unmemorable lines like “Yooba-dooba!” He’s only 48, but acts as if he’s 70, trying to walk on eggshells with corn. Murphy was once the second coming of Richard Pryor. Now, on a good day, he’s Bob Hope.

Come back, Eddie. Please, come back …

Makes me sad.