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Just four months ago, a comeback for Eddie Murphy seemed not just possible, but likely. He was co-starring opposite Ben Stiller in Tower Heist, the first movie he'd made in years that got anything from critics but outright disdain, and he was set to host the Oscars, a chance to return to his stand-up roots and remind millions of people how funny he could still be. But that all fell apart with astonishing speed, when Tower Heist disappointed at the box office and Murphy bailed on the Oscar gig after Brett Ratner was fired as a producer.
Now that the dust has settled from all of that, Murphy is back in theaters with A Thousand Words, a comedy filmed back in 2008 that, based on clips, seems to be the same watered-down humor we've been getting from Murphy for years. So with his big Oscar chance gone, is Eddie Murphy's comeback over before it could even start? Kristy and Mack got together to argue about just that, with Mack a Murphy diehard who believes anything is still possible, and Kristy too burned by the awful movies to have faith in him anymore. Check out their Great Debate below, and vote in the poll to let us know who you think is right.
MACK: After Tower Heist was released last November, people began tripping all over themselves to tell the world Eddie Murphy was back. Now, four months later, many of those same people have used the Thousand Words trailer to declare him dead. I don't understand why there's suddenly so much negativity. Whether this movie winds up sucking or not, I know Eddie Murphy has more than a few great movies left in him.
KRISTY: See, because I've seen Tower Heist I have no faith left in him. I wanted that to be his comeback too, but it was awful.
MACK: That's where we disagree. As an entire film, I found Tower Heist to be disappointing, but there were several five minute bursts in which Eddie simply outclassed and outperformed his co-stars. There's plenty of blame to assign for why Tower Heist wasn't better, but I have a hard time putting any of it at Eddie's feet.
KRISTY: I didn't find him funny at all. His approach to Tower Heist seemed to be "more yelling means more funny." I was not only not amused, I was disappointed. Saying he was better than the rest isn't saying much. He used to be incredibly funny. But my love of Beverly Hills Cop 1-3, and Coming to America isn't enough for me to ignore that he hasn't done anything exceptional outside of his voice work for more than 20 years.
MACK: I'm more than willing to admit Eddie has made a lot of horrible movies in the past two decades. Frankly, some of them were unwatchable, but being a horrible decision maker and suddenly sucking at acting are two entirely different faults.
KRISTY: But he's guilty of both. I think he doesn't care anymore about making a good product, and its affected his performance. There was an enthusiasm to his earlier movies, and I don't feel that anymore. Norbit, The Nutty Professor etc. all feel like paycheck movies. They practically exude a contempt toward the audience. Like they say, "You don't deserve any better."
MACK: Paycheck movies? Maybe. But a lack of enthusiasm? No way. Take Saturday Night Live as an example. Will Ferrell was in hundreds of absolutely horrible sketches. At the end of the day, were those sketches his fault or the writers? You see a movie like A Thousand Words and say, "Wow, Eddie Murphy has fallen." I see a movie like A Thousand Words and I think, "How awful would this be without Eddie?"
KRISTY: After Tower Heist, I'm done. I've been burned too many times before. I mean his bad comedies are so bad that they have become common fodder on 30 Rock as the kind of choices a total hack makes. And rightly so. He's lost his integrity. I think he lost momentum as soon as he tried to go family friendly, and aside from the Shrek movies the result is lazy comedy.
MACK: Look: there are very few comedians who we can fairly call brilliant. I think we can both agree, at least during the early 1980s, Eddie Murphy belonged in that category.
KRISTY: But I haven't felt that way in ages.
MACK: But people don't lose their talent. They just lose their ways.
KRISTY: They most certainly lose motivation to use it though. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2006, and followed it up with Norbit. I don't know a bigger way to say "fuck you" to movie lovers.
MACK: But doing something for money and being incapable of doing something are totally different things.
KRISTY: I'm not arguing Murphy couldn't be great again. I'm saying he won't because he doesn't care.
MACK: And that's where I disagree. He might not care at times, but given a great script, he has the talent to be wonderful. You've already admitted that. So, it's just about finding the right script. You're telling me Eddie will never come across a good script again?
KRISTY: Why would anyone trust him with a great script? Some of his peers look to explore their craft--like Bill Murray who took on dramas and offbeat comedies--some don't. Like Dan Aykroyd is hanging on to relevance by relentlessly pursuing Ghostbusters 3, which would likely mar the former films just as Blues Brothers 2000 did. He's going more the way of the latter than the former.
MACK: That's fine. I'm not trying to defend all of the choices Eddie has made. He's picked a lot of terrible movies. He's not Bill Murray, but he is every bit as wonderful and captivating with the right material. I would never, ever write Eddie Murphy off even if he made another 10 bad movies.
KRISTY: Wow. See, I do miss the Eddie Murphy we all saw in the 80s', but he's gone so far from what I found exciting about him. Outside of playing cartoon characters, I've totally lost interest in him. And I don't think I'm alone.
MACK: I don't think you're alone either, but talent has always been and will always be more important than drive.
KRISTY: Well, what would you like to see Murphy do? And what does he have?
MACK: Eddie has the ability to make every other person on the screen disappear. When he's on, I, like most other people, could listen to him talk for hours. He's that good. He's not Adam Sandler good or Chris Farley good. He's Chevy Chase during the last 70s and early 80s good. So, what I want from Eddie is 5 more incredible movies before he retires. I don't care if they're mixed in with 15 shitty ones. It doesn't matter. I'll keep showing up because I know one day, he's going to make something else every bit as masterful and hilarious as Beverly Hills Cop.
KRISTY: But what kind of movies would those be? For me, he'd have to go R-rated again before I'd even consider seeing it.
MACK: Sure. I'm all for Eddie spewing f-words. You think he'll never go that route again, right?
KRISTY: I think he lost his way when he went family-friendly/more marketable. But we've somehow sidestepped this issue: Do you think A Thousand Words will be good?
MACK: Meh. I think it'll probably be okay, but once again, I don't think Eddie will be the problem.
KRISTY: And I don't think he'll be its savior.
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