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By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 01, 1992


Reginald Hudlin
Eddie Murphy;
Robin Givens;
Halle Barry;
David Alan Grier;
Martin Lawrence;
Grace Jones;
Geoffrey Holder;
Eartha Kitt
language, nudity and sensuality

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Eddie Murphy's "Boomerang" was intended to be a nifty bit of damage management for the box office attraction's faltering Leather Eddie image, an exercise in megastar spin control. And, certainly, the movie does its intended job. And more. Much, much more.

How? Well, "Boomerang" is the funniest, most sophisticated movie of Eddie Murphy's career; it's a sleek, dexterous satire, with a slew of rich comic performances that remind us of everything we loved about Murphy in the first place.

Murphy is so polished and assured here that you'd think he'd been reborn. In a sense, the movie is something of an autobiographical satire of Murphy's own smooth-talking, ladies' man image -- a cutting homage to his old self. His character is a high-rolling marketing executive named Marcus who moves through his lush universe as if he were on velvet coasters. Everything he surveys is at his command; like a big candy store, it's all his for the taking -- the women especially. And in this department, Marcus is something of a master. His pickup rap is a thing of beauty, and his batting average so high that his best friends, Gerard (David Alan Grier) and Tyler (Martin Lawrence), are in perpetual awe.

Everyone falls for Marcus, but that's where the trouble begins. No matter how perfect his conquests may be, as soon as he has them he finds something wrong with them -- ugly feet, maybe -- and loses interest. Nobody but nobody is good enough.

That is until he meets Jacqueline (Robin Givens), a drop-dead fox who becomes his boss after a corporate takeover, and who refuses to become another notch on Marcus's belt. Sure, she sleeps with him, but afterward she's up and out the door. "Hey, wait a minute," he thinks. "That's my trick."

"Call me," he yells sheepishly as she strides away.

Directed by Reginald Hudlin from a Barry Blaustein-David Sheffield script, "Boomerang" is the story of a womanizer's comeuppance, and in theme and structure, the story of this rake's progress is similar to the journey traveled by the Dustin Hoffman character in "Tootsie." In that film, the actor hero has to "become" a woman to get in touch with his feminine side; in "Boomerang" Murphy doesn't go that far. But when the tables are turned on him, when he finds a woman who treats him exactly the way he has treated other women, the same end is accomplished.

Waiting by the telephone for Jacqueline's call, Marcus finds his whole world going sour. He can't work, he can't sleep, and all the beautiful women in the office seem to be snickering behind his back. Dammit, he's in love. How could she be so cold?

This dire reversal of fortune gives Murphy some of his choicest comic opportunities. He brings a touch of Cary Grant to his performance here, and it's this new dimension -- let's call it grace -- that comes as such a surprise. For the first time, Murphy plays a character who develops on-screen, who has some reality; for the first time, he's a real actor.

He's in a real movie too. Reginald Hudlin (who, along with his brother, producer Warrington Hudlin, directed the first "House Party" movie) has a gentle touch that brings out the boyish sweetness in Murphy, even when the jokes take a raunchy turn (as they sometimes do). The film is anything but tame; it's a sexy, irreverent, frank-minded picture, but the tone of the sexual politics here is light and uninsistent.

The spirit of crassness and ugly misogyny of "Raw" and "Harlem Nights" and even the "Beverly Hills Cop" pictures exists only vestigially here in the unreformed Marcus. The darker side of Murphy becomes an object of parody in "Boomerang." Murphy's movies have often been one-man shows, but (another first) the women in "Boomerang" more than hold their own with their super co-star. As Jacqueline, Givens is a heartbreaker with skyscraper stems and the demon eyes of a lynx. From the instant Marcus lays eyes on her, he's dead, and Givens is deliciously merciless in playing catwoman to his hapless mouse.

While Marcus nurses his broken heart, he becomes fast friends with Angela (Halle Berry), a gifted young art director who would like to be more than friends. But, blinded by Jacqueline, Marcus is oblivious to Angela's devotion -- that is, until he wises up and realizes what love is all about and sees what's been right under his nose all along. And Berry, who in comparison with Givens's Platonic beauty is only ravishing, turns out not to be such a pushover either.

The filmmaker's message here is old-fashioned and even a trifle corny, but still refreshingly simple. Hudlin and Murphy are too hip to let the picture disintegrate into the sort of saccharine overeagerness that undermined so many of Richard Pryor's attempts at light comedy. (The presence of Grace Jones, who plays a smallish role as a superstar model, pretty much guarantees against that sort of thing.) As a glancing look inside the mechanics of love, "Boomerang" maintains its sharp comic edge and, somehow, its innocence too.

"Boomerang" is rated R for language, nudity and sensuality.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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