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By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 03, 1992


Reginald Hudlin
Eddie Murphy;
Robin Givens;
Halle Barry;
David Alan Grier;
Martin Lawrence;
Grace Jones;
Geoffrey Holder;
Eartha Kitt
Under 17 restricted

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The ad copy for "Boomerang" calls Eddie Murphy "a player who's about to be played." The reference to "The Player" may be unintentional, but Murphy's hip, hilarious new romantic comedy resembles that movie in at least one way: It's packed with cameos, in this case by black stars past and present. Grace Jones, Nipsey Russell, Geoffrey Holder and Eartha Kitt are among the supporting players, and everyone gets a chance to go way over the top.

When we first meet Murphy as Marcus Graham, a New York cosmetics company exec and louche Lothario, he's directing his secretary to send cards and flowers to a list of women ("Thinking only of you") while screening a preposterously phallic lipstick commercial. Then it's off to cast models for a body lotion spot before returning to his sex-den apartment, complete with video aquarium.

Murphy's life is the stuff of a Penthouse Forum letters column, and half the fun of this movie (the other half is playing spot-the-stars) is watching Murphy on the make -- when females enter the scene (always to a comically seismic hip-hop beat), Murphy springs into action like a cartoon dog.

A corporate takeover suddenly leaves Murphy the conqueror subordinate to a woman, and when he meets his new boss -- Robin Givens, no less! -- he gets his payback, in an ego-deflating boardroom-to-bedroom role reversal that will seem particularly sweet to the ladies in the house.

Director Reginald "House Party" Hudlin concocts another energetic fantasy -- this time an updated take on the screwball comedies of the '40s -- and the movie benefits from a stylish, high-gloss look, a hit-filled soundtrack and up-to-the-minute dialogue (there's even a Korean shop-owner joke) that feels winningly off the cuff. The expertly light touch is marred only by the recurrence of Murphy's blustery, out-of-place homophobia.

Murphy gives his most appealing performance to date, using his smug, self-satisfied, sly smile as a joke on his own well-known screen persona. He's unfailingly funny and likable. When he's stood up by Givens, Murphy sulks by the phone, all pouty and petulant, and it's howlingly funny.

Given Givens's stunning beauty and satin-over-steel machisma, it's no wonder she knocks Murphy out in the first round (and it's plain to see how she was a formidable match for Iron Mike Tyson). Halle Berry is adorable as Angela, a nice-girl art director who has a sincere thing for Murphy, though she's a bit too cloyingly cutesy at times.

Many stars are afraid of being upstaged by supporting players, but Murphy surrounds himself with high-powered comic talent, and he's found perfect foils in comics David Alan Grier and Martin Lawrence, who play his envious buddies Gerard (the buppie) and Tyler (the homeboy). Watch for a smart cameo by "Saturday Night Live's" underused comic Chris Rock as an up-and-coming mailroom kid who's looking at Eddie's top-dog spot.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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