Skid row filmmaker Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) must sign reluctant megastar Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) in order to get his latest project off the ground.
He may be regarded as one of the world's funniest laughter merchants, but there's no denying that Steve Martin's movie career has been on the downswing of late. Aside from a superb, against-type role in The Spanish Prisoner, a dearth of decent movies since 1991's LA Story have left him floundering. So it's something of a relief that Bowfinger, a Martin-penned poke at the film industry, is such a splendidly funny piece of work.
When small-time director Bobby Bowfinger (Martin) asks Hollywood's hottest agent to give his latest movie a shot, the answer is yes - provided he can sign action star Kit Ramsey (Murphy) in the lead. For the opportunistic Bowfinger, the small matter of Ramsey turning down the script (a dismal sci-fi horror epic entitled Chubby Rain) doesn't pose a problem. Hiring Kit lookalike Jiff (Murphy, in a dual role), a nerd who couldn't punch his way through a damp paper bag, Bowfinger scrapes together a motley cast, led by fading diva Carol (Baranski) and fresh-faced ingenue Daisy (Graham) who's not averse to sleeping her way through the crew. He then launches an elaborate scheme to snare the paranoid Ramsey, thanks to concealed cameras and his cast interacting with him at key moments.
It's a wildly original idea and one that could have failed dismally, but Oz builds up the comedy gradually rather than going for all out mirth in the first half. By the time Murphy mark II appears, the action has switched into high gear, unleashing a string of frenetic set-pieces (Kit's involvement in a Scientology-like cult, Jiff's hysterical attempts to cross the LA freeway) and allowing the cast to enjoy themselves immensely. And even if it gets a bit too ridiculous at times, and its take on Hollywood is just a little too cynical for its own good, Bowfinger still provides a refreshing antidote to the formulaic studio comedies of late.
After a decade in the wilderness, it's good to know that Martin can still cut it with the likes of Jim Carrey and Mike Myers.