Eddie Murphy movies work very well when the actor isn't the central focus of the film and doesn't have to carry it on his own. In such situations, Murphy's talents shine brilliantly every so often when a strong supporting cast shores up intermediate moments. Bowfinger happens to be one such Eddie Murphy film, and represents his best performance since The Nutty Professor.
The plot is hilariously absurd: Bowfinger (Steve Martin) is a would-be movie producer who finds a screenplay he thinks will be his road out of debt and destitution to stardom. The screenplay for the movie, titled Chubby Rain, involves aliens trying to take over the earth through raindrops. Bowfinger wants Kit Ramsey (Murphy), the hottest action star in Hollywood, to be in the film. Ramsey, paranoid and delusional though he may be, has no interest in the screenplay. Bowfinger decides to use Ramsey anyway, filming the actor without his knowledge by using elaborate staged encounters that drive Ramsey to the verge of mental breakdown.
While Murphy does a fine job as the arrogant Ramsey, he is at his best playing Kit Ramsey's brother, Jiff. These are scenes I had seen in trailers repeatedly, but I was still rolling with laughter. Jiff is used just the right amount in the film, balancing Ramsey's aggressiveness and paranoia with amusing and endearing innocence. A cast of interesting characters make sure Murphy isn't overexposed: Afrim (Adam Alexi-Malle) is Bowfinger's accountant and screenwriter, Dave (Jaime Kennedy) and Carol (Christine Baranski) are Bowfinger's main actors hanging on to the thread that may lead to stardom, and Daisy (Heather Graham) is an ambitious vixen from Ohio who is prepared to go all the way to the top.
There is some commentary about the film industry (primarily in showing how the promise of fame can affect and change a person's behaviour, and the lengths people will go to obtain it), but it's really the inventiveness of the humour that makes it cool. And unlike humour in films like There's Something About Mary or Austin Powers (both of which were great films), Bowfinger takes a more subdued and minimalist approach, and that makes for a refreshing change!