Rodney Dangerfield knew it. You can’t get respect being funny. Nobody gets anywhere unless you’re taken seriously. At least that’s the company line these days in Hollywood, where it seems most of the entertainment industry’s best funnymen are becoming more interested in eliciting tears than laughter. It is really quite ironic then that the one guy putting out consistently good comedy is Hollywood’s most serious actor.
That’s right, I’m talking about Showtime, starring the aforementioned serious actor, Robert De Niro, as tough guy cop Mitch Preston, who crosses the line with the press and gets too rough. With lawsuits looming, Mitch’s police department is railroaded into letting a TV network turn his police beat into a reality-based buddy cop show. Adding insult to injury, he’s been assigned a fame-hungry, lame duck partner, to play the “funny minority type” (Eddie Murphy).
What follows is a motley collection of every buddy cop show cliché in the book, complete with T.J. Hooker’s guide to TV police work. Clichés they may be, but they are used to surprisingly good effect to make fun of the genre. Not only is Showtime busy poking fun at cop shows, it’s not the least bit squeamish about clamping its comedy pinchers down upon itself, with a spirited cameo by William Shatner and a hilarious, self-mocking De Niro.
Sure, Eddie Murphy is along for the ride, too, yucking it up as expected and still paying penance for his own fruitless attempts at respectable acting. Rene Russo runs about as well, proving more likable than she’s been in years. But De Niro is more than just some straight man comic foil. He pulls just as many laughs as his funnyman partner, with half the effort. Even more than in Meet the Parents opposite Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro proves he’s every bit as comfortable cracking people up as he is cracking skulls.
Showtime is flat-out comedy, thrown together with flair, panache, and gut-busting humor – and all without fart jokes. So Showtime is a little hammy. I like hammy! [No joke. Josh put Planet of the Apes on his top ten list for 2001. -Ed.] As long as I don’t have to watch Robin Williams cry again. Wake up, Hollywood! I’m tired of all these tears, be like De Niro, and make me laugh!
Tons of extra scenes and commentaries on the DVD – the outtakes are better than the film itself.
Hey, pull my trigger.
Review by Joshua Tyler © 2002 filmcritic.com