[box cover]

Eddie Murphy Raw

Only a comedian as overpoweringly charismatic as Eddie Murphy could get away with an 80-minute routine as shallow and utterly uninspired as Raw. Released at the tail end of 1987, the year in which Murphy reestablished his R-rated box office dominance with the awful Beverly Hills Cop II after the commercial PG-13 disappointment of The Golden Child in 1986, the film is an ugly self-portrait of superstardom that often finds the comedian riffing on superstar problems to which not a single person in the audience could ever relate. Otherwise, the bulk of this act, filmed in the cozy confines of The Theater at Madison Square Garden, is a clichéd compendium of relationship issues that wouldn't elicit a single laugh were it being delivered by anyone other than Eddie Murphy. The audience may roar its approval throughout (perhaps through director Robert Townsend's post-production assistance), but, as anyone who happened to watch this in a packed movie theater during its initial release will attest, the laughs grow awfully sparse during the film's flabby and bitter midsection. The picture kicks off with an amusing little sketch depicting a young Murphy telling a childish, heavily scatological joke at a family get-together. Clearly, the bit is intended to celebrate Murphy's profane fearlessness, but the succeeding 70-or-so minutes actually serve to illustrate just how little sophistication has crept into his act during the intervening 20 years (when Murphy imitates himself as a 15-year-old using Richard Pryor's delivery to riff on the intricacies of taking a dump, the unintended revelation is that the bit is right at home in the current performance). Still, there's no use being high-falutin' so long as one is laughing, and, early on, Murphy delivers the goods, relating how he might use the Jedi Mind Trick to escape a beating from an enraged Mr. T, and sharing an anecdote about his idol, Bill Cosby, chastising him for the vileness (i.e. "filth, flarn, filth") of his act. This is all fitfully funny as far as it goes, but once Murphy launches into his tirade on gold-digging women, igniting his desire to marry a "crazy naked zebra bitch," it's all pretty much downhill. Some might object to the heavy misogynistic tone of this segment, but, in Murphy's defense, it's an honest and earned revulsion at the kinds of women that swarm wealthy celebrities. What makes the material unbearable is that Murphy possesses little insight on this phenomenon. Mostly, he rails against the notion that a woman is entitled to half of his newly amassed fortune, and laments the difficulty of convincing a prospective bride to sign a prenuptial agreement. If it wasn't funny in 1987, it's excruciatingly stale now, making it an even longer road to the routine's eventual recovery, where Murphy indulges in childhood reminiscence about his mother promising to make him a hamburger that's "better than McDonalds." The film at least ends on a high note, with Murphy talking about getting sucker-punched at a club, leading to a phone conversation with his drunk, Motown-classics-quoting (or, rather, mangling) father, who drifts off into a tangent about being forced to eat Milton Bradley games as a child. Though it doesn't come close to redeeming the entire film, it's a silly and inspired reminder of why the entire country fell in love with Eddie in the first place. Paramount presents Eddie Murphy Raw in an anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a pretty lousy source-print that doesn't look like it was cleaned up at all, while the acceptable audio is Dolby Digital 2.0. No extras, keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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