Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
The cop buddy comedy is such a familiar genre that a movie can parody it and occupy it at the same time. The characters in "Showtime" do it as a kind of straddle, starting out making fun of cop buddy cliches and ending up trapped in them. The movie's funny in the opening scenes and then forgets why it came to play.
We meet two cops: Mitch (Robert De Niro), who never had to choose between a red wire and a green wire, and Trey (Eddie Murphy), who is a cop but would rather play one on TV. You can guess from the casting that the movie will have energy and chemistry, and indeed while I watched it my strongest feeling was affection for the actors. They've been around so long, given so much, are so good at what they do. And Rene Russo, as the TV producer who teams them on a reality show, is great at stalking in high heels as if this is the first time she's ever done it without grinding a body part beneath them.
Mitch wants only to do his job. Trey is a hot dog who has learned more from TV than at the police academy. Making a drug bust, he knowledgeably tastes the white power and finds it's cocaine. "What if it's cyanide?" Mitch asks (or anthrax, we're thinking). "There's a reason real cops don't taste drugs." We meet Chase Renzi (Russo), TV producer with a problem: Her report on exploding flammable baby pajamas didn't pan out. She's electrified when she sees TV footage of Mitch get angry with a TV cameraman and shoot his camera. The network sues. Mitch is threatened with suspension, just like in all the Dirty Harry movies, but offered an ultimatum: Star in a new reality show with Trey ("You do the show, they drop the suit").
Mitch grudgingly agrees, and some of the best scenes involve the callow Trey instructing the hard-edged Mitch in the art of acting (this is a flip of Robert Mitchum tutoring James Caan in "El Dorado"). During these scenes we're seeing pure De Niro and Murphy, freed from effects and action, simply acting. They're good at it.