“Looking good, Billy Ray”

Eddie Murphy, while not quite a comic genius a la Steve Martin or Chevy Chase, has seen quite the decline in the quality of his movie output, reaching a particular nadir with the ill-conceived multimillion dollar flop The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which must have been pitched as a comedy version of Total Recall, and like the other two has squarely plumped for family fare in the last decade and a bit. So it’s something of a relief to possibly see a glimmer of self-awareness in his recent claim to be giving the movies the ol’ heave-ho. Especially satisfying as it means nixing Brett Ratner’s planned Beverly Hills Cop IV, an idea that filled me with dread. If John Landis couldn’t breathe life into it, he sure as criminy can’t.

He was never any funnier than he was in Trading Places or in his two concert movies, which are themselves somewhat marred by more than a little sprinkling of homophobia and racism. You might be able to put some of that stuff down to youthful exuberance and ignorance, but it don’t make it right.

I can’t help but think he’s a bit of a weird one ol’ Eddie, in between the SNL denial, prostitute outreach and frankly bonkers wooing and impregnating of Scary Spice, it’s hard to reconcile the scary eyed fortysomething year old with the kinetic looselimbed youngster who exploded in the 80s. The departure from movies is apparently part of a plan to return to stand-up, something he’s been toying with for years. Will it actually happen? As Eddie himself admits, it takes years of doing the clubs to get a set together and even then it’s not an easy road. Jerry Seinfeld’s doc Comedian makes that pretty clear. But in an interview accompanying the recentish long-awaited DVD release of Delirious, he showed he still has the chops. I wouldn’t bet against him. Funny is funny. I hope.

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