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March 28, 2002 – The reviews of "Showtime" aren't going to be of much help in deciding whether to go see it, because they're across the board.
The Los Angeles Times says the film "displays an ingenuity, cleverness and briskness that never flags." The New York Post calls it "a wretchedly dumb, lazy and incoherent movie that's magically rendered watchable by Eddie Murphy's charm and Robert De Niro's presence." The New York Times accuses it of playing "every convention twice, once as parody and once by the book, but the movie, trying to be two things at once, fails at both."
What we've got here is a cop story and a comedy and a takeoff on the phenom of "reality-based TV." De Niro is a veteran detective who just wants to catch the crooks, push the paperwork and head home to watch TV and relax. Murphy is a patrolman who wants to be an actor but took the job after his waitron gig got canceled.
They make the news when Murphy muffs De Niro's undercover case and ends up handcuffed — with his own cuffs — to a fence. Network TV shoots it all, and a furious De Niro shoots up the TV camera. Hyper producer Rene Russo sees some real ratings potential and offers an ultimatum: De Niro agrees to star in a reality-based TV cop show, or the network sues the police for $10 million in damages. Not much choice here. And guess who the network picks to play his partner?
In a cameo scene, William Shatner plays himself giving De Niro and Murphy acting lessons, then it's off to bag the bad guys for the world to watch. As Hollywood.com puts it, "Cameras rolling, they bicker, bond and eventually solve the crime." It's a "real" crime, naturally, having to do with a drug-dealer villain who's stockpiling super-powerful guns for some purpose that's never quite made clear..
The Chief Report panned the film's multiple personalities: "Every so often there would be a joke about the camera, or the satellite truck would be following them during a car chase, but otherwise there was nothing about the reality show concept that made any difference." The reviewer also faulted a script and direction that kept the lead characters one-dimensional: Murphy was "reined in too much" and De Niro, "who we know can be funny as the straight man to a comedic partner ('Analyze This,' 'Meet the Parents') seemed more like a caricature of his serious self."
It's rated PG-13 and is playing at Market Square East.

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