Who imagined that one of the best comic actors of the 21st century would be…Robert DeNiro? The brilliant timing and utter fearlessness when it comes to looking goofy that DeNiro showed in “Analyze This” and “Meet the Parents” gets kicked up a notch higher for inspired silliness in this knowing but affectionate parody of buddy cop films.
DeNiro plays Mitch, a (what else) tough, seen-it-all police detective who just wants to everyone to stay out his way so he can do his job. Eddie Murphy is Trey, a cop who wants to be an actor. Both end up in a new “reality TV” series produced by Chase (Rene Russo) called “Showtime.” As Mitch and Trey try to track down a gun dealer, cameras and a satellite uplink follow them everywhere they go.
The movie tries to have it both ways but succeeds best as satire, with some very funny digs at cop shows, reality and otherwise. William Shatner contributes a hilarious performance that plays with his own image as the former star of “T. J. Hooker,” now directing Mitch and Trey in such time-honored TV cop essentials as jumping on the hood of a car and raising one eyebrow very slightly to indicate that an important statement is about to be made. Johnny Cochran makes a brief but very funny appearance, showing that he is a far better performer than the guy who parodied him on “Seinfeld.” Chase and her assistant redecorate Mitch’s office and apartment to respond to research reports about what viewers like to see, and their matter-of-factness about their notion of “reality” plays off of DeNiro beautifully.
The movie’s action plotline is less effective, requiring even more suspension of disbelief than usual. Despite protestations from Mitch that real cops are nothing like those on television, he ends up behaving like a TV cop, throwing punches and mistreating a suspect. That seems out of character for both Mitch and the movie.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of action violence, including a special highly destructive gun that can blow up a car or knock down a house. Characters are killed (offscreen). Characters deal in drugs and illegal weapons. The police violate police procedure and abuse the rights of suspects and prisoners, manipulating one into talking without his lawyer present and getting into a fistfight with others. Characters use strong language, including comic sexual references.
Families who see this movie should talk about whether “reality television” is an oxymoron. Is it possible to put “reality” on television? How do TV cops differ from real ones?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Eddie Murphy in two action-comedy classics, “48 Hours” and “Beverly Hills Cop” as well as a popular buddy cop series “Lethal Weapon” and its sequels. Those who are interested in seeing more about what happens when cameras follow people around should watch DeNiro in “15 Minutes” (very violent) and the comedy “EdTV.”