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SHOWTIME
Widescreen

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Frankie R. Faison, William Shatner
Director: Tom Dey
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 95 Minutes
Release Date: August 13, 2002

“Patrolling your neighborhood at Friday…”
“It’s Friday night at 8.”
“Patrolling your neighborhood every Friday at 8.”
“Yeah, good, and…be happy.”
“Why should I be happy? I’m patrolling the neighborhood.”

Film **1/2

If there were two actors on Earth I would’ve never expected to appear in a movie together, they’d be Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy, therefore the collaboration of the two superstars should be of larger-than-life proportions. And while Showtime gives De Niro and Murphy moments to play off each other hysterically, it’s the screenplay that suffers, by first offering up some inspired spoofing of reality TV shows, only to take a unwanted turn midway in the movie to become another formula buddy cop movie. The buddy cop genre gets repeated frequently every now and then, and occasionally there are some good ones, such as Bad Boys, Rush Hour and 15 Minutes, which starred De Niro in a serious mode. In my opinion, when you bring two big stars together like De Niro and Murphy, they deserve material that truly merits the collaboration.

The movie does begin with some promise, though. De Niro plays Mitch Preston, a veteran no nonsense and hapless detective who has an intense distaste for the media, since cameramen always seem to be in his face whenever he’s making a bust. Following an incident where Preston shoots a camera from being provoked by the cameraman, network producer Chase Renzi (Rene Russo) gets a witty idea. Instead of a lawsuit against Preston for damaging the camera, the network will use him as the lead in a reality TV cop show, something Mitch is absolutely dead set against, but is ultimately forced into anyway. To make matters worse for Mitch, he is saddled up with hotwire Trey Sellars (Murphy), a real life highway patrolman who’d rather be in pictures than in precincts. The two are obviously opposites, but are forced to deal with each other while filming the show.

The most inspired moments in Showtime are the scenes where William Shatner, portraying himself as the director of the series, called "Showtime", gives tips to be the perfect TV top cop, since Shatner himself was known for being one on the 80s series T. J. Hooker. Trey is an energetic personality who's perfect for the camera, while Mitch couldn't be more depressed about where his current disposition, causing Shatner to label him the worst actor he's ever seen (a priceless moment). Shatner also gives tips on hood jumping and how to properly bust through doors. I especially got a kick out of a later scene where Mitch and Trey are supplied a private booth to make video confessions of their everyday lives for five minutes a day. Trey is eager to talk to his fans, while Mitch just sits in pure silence, looking as if he'd be elsewhere.

I feel like giving Showtime a full recommendation, and it's far off from being a completely bad movie. It's opening half is inspired, full of witty laughs and insights. I just wish that the screenplay had stuck with the direction the first half was aiming for rather than becoming more or less what it was satirizing in the beginning. The last half has Mitch and Trey chasing down a pair of arms dealers who acquire the obligatory thick foreign accents, which actually comes into play in a funny moment late in the movie.  I also think that Rene Russo, one of my all time favorite actresses, is sorely underused in the movie, and since her character sets up the entire show concept, she should be on screen more than she is.

So in short, I am sorely in the mix. What starts out as a sharp satire on TV reality shows turns into rehashed material half way through. Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy play off each other extremely well, and they do what they can when put through the motions of the movie's formulaic plot. Their performances, in addition to William Shatner boldly spoofing his now famous persona are the best parts in Showtime.

Video ****

After viewing this disc, I can certainly say that Warner is having without a doubt one of their best years in the DVD market in terms of quality transfers. In a year that has included such grand discs as Training Day, Ocean's Eleven, The Majestic and Collateral Damage, Showtime is another WB disc that can be added to the list. The video transfer on is of expert quality, with not a single flaw detected. Colors run as natural and vibrant as can be. Most of the movie takes place in outdoor settings, which the transfer provides much clarity on.

Audio ***1/2

Showtime provides quite a boom quality on its 5.1 audio track. The disc succeeds in dialogue delivery, distinct background noises, as well as surrounding noises, music, and it also offers little doses of loud action, such as a few shootouts and some explosions later in the movie.

Features ***1/2

WB has loaded some fun extras onto this particular release, including a running commentary with director Tom Dey, a funny HBO First Look special hosted by William Shatner, who once again pokes fun at his TV cop persona. Also included are some neat deleted scenes, including 5 funny improvs from Eddie Murphy during his booth confessional scene, and a trailer.

Summary:

Showtime started in the right direction, but got lost along the way in the clutches of a routine buddy action comedy. De Niro and Murphy are a delight to watch, and anyone who gets a kick out of  watching William Shatner perform will definitely want to check it out.