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Robert Townsend
Eddie Murphy
Writing Credits:
Eddie Murphy

Uncensored. Uncut. Irresistible.

Raw, the #1 concert film of all time, is Eddie Murphy doing what he does best: making people laugh. Filmed live at New York’s Felt Forum, Murphy delights, shocks and entertains with dead-on celebrity impersonations; observations on love, sex and marriage; a remembrance of Mom's hamburgers and much more. Take front-row center seat for the hottest show in town and the hottest comedian in recent entertainment history. And discover that Eddie Murphy's stand-up comedy performance is one stand-out event.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$9.077 million on 1391 screens.
Domestic Gross
$50.504 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 9/7/2004

• None


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


Eddie Murphy: Raw (1987)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 27, 2004)

If one wanted to establish when Eddie Murphy “jumped the shark”, we’d have to look back to the fall of 1985. After a string of hits between 1982 and 1984, we found Murphy as an enormous movie star. He then proceeded to put out a pop album called How Could It Be, one that featured the execrable, highly mockable tune “Party All the Time” as its lead single.

I honestly don’t remember how the record sold; I don’t think it did all that well, but I also don’t believe it tanked terribly. Nonetheless, it quickly became an embarrassment, and its ego-driven existence started to fuel Murphy’s other endeavors. In 1986, he made his first movie since the huge success of 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop with The Golden Child, an action fantasy that saw Murphy as a heroic “chosen one”.

Yes, fame and success had gotten to Murphy’s head, a fact that got rammed home even farther with the late 1987 release of Raw, a concert film. Happily, Murphy didn’t force us to listen to his strained singing in Raw, as he went back to his stand-up comic roots for this performance. However, the content demonstrated how much he’d changed over the prior few years.

Over the course of the show, Murphy riffs on a number of topics. The movie starts with a prologue that takes place during Thanksgiving of 1968. There we see actors as Murphy’s extended family as the kids put on an after dinner talent show. Eventually little Eddie (Deon Richmond) comes on and does some off-color material that foreshadows his adult work.

From there we jump to then-present day in New York City for the concert performance itself. After a few gushing chats with fans, we head to the show itself. Much of the content deals with his life as a celebrity. He discusses the threats he receives related to prior performances; apparently both celebrities he mocked and gays didn’t like his gags. Murphy also does an extended routine about how Bill Cosby chastised him for his rampant use of profanity.

For the show’s final third, Murphy mostly gets into race and violence. He riffs on how poorly white people dance as well as fights into which he’s gotten. He also gives a good segment about the humiliation of the homemade hamburger when all the other kids have McDonald’s. The performance ends with a long bit about his father’s behavior while inebriated.

In between, Murphy devotes an extended segment to the subject of women. He talks about sex in the Eighties, relationships, and love and money. These elements comprise the majority of the concert.

I saw Raw during its theatrical run and thought it was about half of a funny movie. I felt it started and ended well, but that the parts in between could be painful. I still think that way, as the movie occasionally almost grinds to a halt during Murphy’s venomous take on women.

Make no mistake: Raw is an angry movie in general. Rage infuses almost every part of Murphy’s routine. Even the seemingly gentler moments such as the childhood reminiscence of the hamburgers seethes with barely-hidden resentment. Most comedy comes from pain, so the film’s tone shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Murphy in Raw seems particularly volatile.

During the movie’s first and final segments, Murphy generally makes the anger work for him. For instance, you can tell he maintains some bitterness toward his father’s drinking, but he turns the segment into something so creative and clever that it works. Murphy does seem tremendously self-assured throughout the show. Of course, he meticulously prepared for the concert, but it all comes across as off-the-cuff and spontaneous. It’s remarkable to see him work and know that he had to keep all of those gags and transitions in his head.

It’s interesting to hear Murphy discuss his status as a star. Usually comedians avoid that form of acknowledgement, for such confirmation makes it difficult for them to connect with the average person. Once you admit you’re not Joe Six-Pack, it becomes tougher to get the audience to relate to you. Murphy ably strides both worlds. He can tell us the problems of celebrity but still remind us of average Eddie.

On the negative side, Murphy does seem awfully full of himself. He comes out on stage like a rock star in a ridiculously affected way; somehow I can’t imagine Jack Benny - or even Richard Pryor - strutting out in a similar manner. And don’t even get me started on Murphy’s absurd leather suit.

Raw’s biggest flaw remains that middle segment that gets into women. I can’t begrudge Murphy some of his bitterness toward the fairer sex, as I’m sure his status and fame attracted many manipulative and dishonest females. He perseverates on the ways women will use men, and obviously a lot of this attitude comes from experience.

If only he’d leavened the gags with some vague sense of affection, it might’ve worked. However, the amount of bile Murphy spews as he warns about all the “bitches” out there reaches remarkable levels. Occasionally Murphy expresses negativity towards men, but not to anywhere near the same level. For example, he cracks on men for cheating but then turns around the thread to make their actions almost seem justified; he reverses the female attitudes he earlier lampooned to give men the upper hand.

I won’t say that some of Murphy’s jokes in this segment aren’t funny, for the show continues to muster some laughs. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of bitterness outweighs any positives. Murphy’s venom makes these elements almost painful to watch at times.

That sense of anger makes Raw less than successful as a whole. At its best, the movie presents some very funny moments, but it also bristles for long stretches with resentment and bile. This one probably should be left for Murphy’s biggest fans, as it’s too inconsistent for me to recommend it to less devoted folks.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C+/ Bonus F

Eddie Murphy: Raw appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer showed its age and also needed a clean up, as it seemed passable at best.

Sharpness was acceptable. The majority of the film concentrated on close-ups, and these were never tremendously crisp, but they presented decent detail. The occasional wide shots seemed fair but unexceptional. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but I noticed some light edge enhancement.

Raw went for a restricted palette, as mostly we only saw the purple-blue of Murphy’s outfit and the velvet curtains behind him on stage. The tones seemed a bit murky but were generally acceptably rendered. Blacks looked tight and firm, and the production was well-lit, so shadows came across as nicely delineated.

Where Raw lost most of its points came from source defects. The image presented a surfeit of flaws and became really dirty at times. I saw a few nicks and blemishes, but mostly I witnessed speckles and dust. The picture got so messy at times it looked like it was snowing! Grain also came across as heavier than expected. This was a moderately weak transfer that didn’t hold up well after 17 years.

Don’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack of Raw either. The scope of the mix was fine, as it demonstrated a soundfield that matched the circumstances. Murphy’s speech remained appropriately centered, and a little reverb gave it a live feel. Otherwise, the side speakers largely just accentuated the crowd noise. During the intro and ending, some music popped up and showed good stereo imaging, but those moments passed quickly. The audio emphasized Murphy’s jokes and the crowd’s reactions with little else in the mix.

Sound quality appeared passable. Murphy’s lines were reasonably natural but they could come across as a little reedy at times. While intelligibility was never an issue, some edginess interfered. During the few moments of music, the songs sounded bright and vivid. Effects don’t tax the track since they concentrate on laughter and clapping, but they seemed fairly accurate. This was a subdued mix with some minor flaws, but it represented the source material reasonably well.

Unfortunately, Raw comes with no extras. We don’t even get a trailer.

After all these years, most of us barely remember Eddie Murphy’s years as a stand-up comedian. Raw goes back to his salad days with an inconsistent and sporadically strong performance undercut by rampant misogyny and a flawed middle section. The DVD offers erratic picture, adequate audio and no extras. With a low list price of less than $15, Raw will entice fans, but I can’t recommend such this flawed DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5208 Stars Number of Votes: 48
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