American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
It is a plan of audacity and madness: Bowfinger, a low-rent movie producer, will make a film with a top Hollywood action star, and the star won't even know he's making the picture. "He doesn't like to see the camera, and he never talks to his fellow actors," Bowfinger (Steve Martin) tells his trusting crew. "We'll use a hidden camera." The movie, to be titled "Chubby Rain," will be about aliens in raindrops.
The big star, named Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy), is an ideal choice for this strategy, because he's crazy enough to believe in strange encounters. He's a member of Mind Head, a cult that recruits insecure Hollywood types, gives them little white pyramid hats to wear and pumps them full of new age babble. And Bowfinger's actors and crew want to believe him, because this is as close as they'll ever get to being in a movie.
"Bowfinger," written by Martin and directed by Frank Oz ("Little Shop Of Horrors"), understands how deeply people yearn to be in the movies, and how fame can make you peculiar. Like Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (1968), it's about fringe players who strike out boldly for the big time. The shabby frame house on a dead-end street has a sign outside promoting glorious enterprises ("Bowfinger International Pictures"), but inside everything is debt, desperation and dreams.
Bowfinger is a bottom feeder with a coterie even more hapless than he is. His screenplay is by his Iranian accountant Afrim (Adam Alexi-Malle). His flunky is Dave (Jaime Kennedy), who specializes in being deceived because otherwise he would have nothing at all to believe in. His leading actress, Carol (Christine Baranski), has been kept on hold for years. "We'll hire the best crew we can afford!" Bowfinger declares, backing his vehicle up to the Mexican border and loading four illegal immigrants. And straight off the bus, swinging her suitcase, her lips parted with desire, comes Daisy (Heather Graham), an Ohio girl who's prepared to sleep her way to the top but didn't realize she'd start so close to the bottom.