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Tom Dey
Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, William Shatner, Jullian Dulce Vida
Keith Sharon and Alfred Gough & Miles Millar

Lights. Camera. Aggravation.
Box Office:
Budget $85 million.
Opening weekend $15.011 million on 2917 screens.
Domestic gross $37.948 million.
Rated PG-13 for action violence, language and some drug content.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
English, French, Spanish

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $26.98
Release Date: 8/13/2002

• Audio Commentary with Director Tom Dey and Producer Jorge Saralegui
• Additional Scenes
• “The Making of Showtime
• Cast and Crew
• Trailer
• DVD-ROM Features

Music soundtrack

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Showtime (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Movies that team big-name actors usually seem to be very hit or miss. For every Heat, I’ll show you a Falling In Love. For every Ocean’s Eleven, I’ll give you a Mexican. For every Bowfinger, I’ll provide a Showtime.

On paper, 2002’s Showtime sounds great. How could a flick in which Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro riff off each other not succeed? Heck, De Niro sparked well with lesser talents like Ben Stiller and Billy Crystal; when paired with the occasionally brilliant Murphy, one expects fireworks.

Unfortunately, Showtime fizzles. The movie concentrates on Mitch Preston (De Niro), a by-the-book tough guy cop, and Trey Sellars (Murphy), a low-level policeman who wants to become an actor. Their paths cross when Trey inadvertently ruins Mitch’s bust; not surprisingly, this starts their relationship on a sour note.

Their next meeting doesn’t occur due to coincidence. A TV crew annoys hotheaded Mitch when he emerges from the failed bust, and he shoots a camera. Rather than arrest the cop, TV producer Chase Renzi (Rene Russo) smells video gold. She wants to create a reality show with Mitch as the focal point. Of course, he doesn’t want to do this, but his chief (Frankie Faison) forces him into it.

The TV folks want Mitch to have a partner. After an amusing “audition”, Trey lands the role, mainly due to the antagonism between the two men. In that time-honored buddy movie tradition, they start as enemies but slowly learn to respect each other as they pursue the culprits involved in that failed bust.

Showtime offers a muddled and lackluster affair. Like Last Action Hero, Showtime wants to have its cake and eat it too. It desires to spoof the buddy cop genre while it also revels in those conventions. Unfortunately, it parodies the field so toothlessly that it never comes across in that light. Occasional humorous moments appear, but those quickly evaporate.

This forces Showtime to live and die on its cop-flick elements, and it fails there as well. The plot in which Mitch and Trey pursue baddie Vargas (Pedro Damián) seems tacked on and gratuitous. I guess the filmmakers figured the guys needed a case during which they could bond, and they couldn’t invent anything more creative than this by-the-numbers thug. Of course, they’d claim he’s generic because it fits the parody, but that feels like a convenient excuse for the movie’s lack of imagination.

Probably the biggest disappointment related to Showtime stems from the chemistry - or lack thereof - between its stars. De Niro and Murphy show virtually no sparks whatsoever, and frankly, I blame the former. Murphy occasionally invests his role with some spirit and personality, but De Niro totally sleepwalks through the film. Not for a moment does he display any of the character or grit that made him a star; he looks like a man collecting a paycheck.

Surprisingly, the best performance in Showtime comes from that hammiest of hams, William Shatner. He plays himself and is supposed to be the director of the reality cop show. Shatner nicely sends up his TJ Hooker days, as he constantly refers to himself as “TV Cop” and demonstrates all of the genre’s requisite moves. It’s nothing new - Shatner’s recently made a career of self-parody - but at least it briefly adds some life to this flat flick.

Showtime enjoys a fun concept and an excellent cast, but unfortunately, the end result fails to engage. A few moments seem witty and engaging, but most of the movie passes without much life. Under the best of circumstances, Showtime would be a dud, but considering the waste of talent, it becomes a much more substantial disappointment.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio A- / Bonus B

Showtime appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. (A fullscreen version of the film is available on a separate DVD.) Though not flawless, the picture appeared positive for the most part.

Sharpness generally looked fine. Some wide shots presented a smidgen of softness, but those occurred infrequently. Most of the film appeared crisp and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems, but I saw a little light edge enhancement at times. Print flaws seemed absent, as I witnessed no signs of grit, speckles, grain or other issues.

Showtime featured a naturalistic palette, and the DVD replicated those tones well. The colors looked clean and distinct, and the hues always remained vibrant and lively. Black levels looked deep and rich, while shadows came across as appropriately heavy but not overly dense. Ultimately, Showtime presented a very solid picture.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Showtime also seemed terrific. The soundfield consistently created a lively and involving presence. Music showed solid spread and delineation across the front, while effects seemed appropriately placed and meshed together neatly. When necessary, the environment could become very active, such as during the early scene in which baddies shot up a house. The elements appeared accurately located and distinct. Surround usage was positive, as the rear speakers reinforced music and effects well, and they also provided a lot of unique audio; for example, scenes with helicopters demonstrated impressive movement.

Audio quality also appeared to be very good. Dialogue sounded natural and warm, and the lines displayed no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Some source music seemed somewhat flat, but the score appeared nicely rich and vibrant. The parts of the music came across as bright and concise, with solid dynamics. Effects also presented clean and accurate material. I heard no signs of distortion, and these elements offered a strong impact when appropriate. Across the board, bass response was deep and tight. Overall, the soundtrack of Showtime worked very well and impressed me.

The DVD release of Showtime includes a mix of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from director Tom Dey and producer Jorge Saralegui. Both men were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Though they proved to be reasonably chatty and engaging, neither man offered a great deal of compelling information. Dey dominated the track, and Saralegui often simply echoed the director’s statements. Many of these remarks fell into the category of praise. Time and again throughout the piece, they told us how terrific the leads were, and we also heard how great everyone else was. They discussed locations, sets, improvisation and a number of other topics, but praise remained the subject of the day. That meant this commentary seemed mediocre at best.

Next we find a collection of Additional Scenes. There are five of these, though the last one --"Trey’s Confessions” - includes five different takes, so we actually get nine clips. These run between 27 seconds and five minutes, 35 seconds for a total of 13 minutes, 51 seconds of material. Most seem pretty pointless. One extends the TV premiere party and nicely expands the De Niro and Russo characters, but it goes on too long and was an appropriate omission. Murphy’s improvs for the last few clips are surprisingly bland - his riffs during Bowfinger seem much funnier.

The “Additional Scenes” can be viewed with or without commentary from Dey and Saralegui. They offer some production notes about the material and also let us know why the bits didn’t make the cut. Their statements don’t contribute a lot of useful material, but they do the basic job effectively.

One of those HBO “First Look” deals, The Making of Showtime provides a 14 minute glimpse at the production. Hosted by William Shatner, the program offers the standard mix of movie snippets, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from director Tom Dey, producers Jane Rosenthal and Jorge Saralegui, police technical advisor Chip Daniel, and actors Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, and Johnnie Cochran. Shatner’s “TV cop” shtick worked in the film but got old quickly here, and the show provided almost no compelling information. It simply promoted the movie in a bland and generic manner.

In the “old stand-bys” category, we find the film’s theatrical trailer and a Cast and Crew area. The latter includes filmographies for producers Jorge Saralegui and Jane Rosenthal, writers Keith Sharon, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, director Tom Dey, and actors Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Frankie R. Faison, and William Shatner.

Lastly, Showtime tosses in a few DVD-ROM features. These consist totally of weblinks. You can connect to the film’s official website, a Warner Home Video spot that advertises their latest DVDs, Warner Bros. Online, and their standard “Special Events” page. They don’t update the latter very frequently; as I write this in mid-July 2002, they list some June titles as “coming soon”. The DVD-ROM area also lets you sign up for WB’s “Movie Mail”.

With a cast that includes Eddie Murphy, Robert De Niro and Rene Russo, Showtime had “can’t miss” written all over it. Unfortunately, it did miss, as the movie proved to be nothing more than a bland compilation of warmed-over buddy flick clichés. A poor performance by De Niro further made the film tough to watch. However, the DVD shined, as it presented very solid picture and sound quality along with a good roster of extras. Fans of the flick should be pleased with the disc, but others should probably skip it. While the cast makes the movie enticing, I think few will fail to feel disappointed by it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.25 Stars Number of Votes: 20
6 3:
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