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Showtime Review

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When grouchy detective Mitch takes his Dirty Harry approach too far on a drug bust, he finds himself reluctantly teamed with wannabe actor and useless beat cop, Trey, for new reality TV police series, Showtime. As the nation watches, the mismatched pair hit the streets.

★★★★★

All this postmodernism doesn’t half get confusing. So let’s get this straight. Eddie Murphy, red Beverly Hills Cop jacket and all, plays a loud-mouthed live wire? Robert De Niro, one of the world’s greatest thespians, is a crotchety cop whose TV acting — yup, acting — leaves a lot to be desired? Oh, how damn clever.

Sort of. Because more often than not, Showtime is actually as formulaic and derivative as the movies it wants us to believe it’s parodying. It flounders under the perception that it can disguise a sparsity of ideas as hip, knowing satire. Well thanks, but no.

Back in the days of Scream, of course, the more gullible multiplex crowd would have lapped all this up with a spoon. By now, though, we’ve all sat through Scream 3 and are somewhat more demanding. True, Showtime starts off promisingly, with the amiable chemistry between De Niro and Murphy warming the cockles and Rene Russo once again proving that if life doesn’t begin at 40, it at least improves with age. Likewise, the sight of William Shatner educating the buddies in their hokey T.J. Hooker-isms is, if only for a brief time, inspired.

The problem, unfortunately, is that as soon as the media sideswipes and so-so satire are replaced by a woefully worn subplot — hey, if in doubt, bung in a car chase, some big guns and foreign bad guys! — everything grinds to an unimaginative halt.

To the point that (and get this for some genuine irony), for all of De Niro’s tics and Murphy’s wisecracking, the overriding feeling is that a little more of Captain James T. Kirk wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Director Dey, meanwhile, acquits himself fairly well, framing what’s left of the action — one would imagine the original screenplay’s more pointed satirical edges were smoothed out by wary studio lackeys — with occasional flair, following up 2000’s Shanghai Noon with disappointing, but not disastrous, style.

Decidedly average, actually. De Niro, Murphy and a neat spin on their established personae? Odd belly laugh apart, this should have been so much more.

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