Friday, October 31, 2008

Movies: Boomerang

What pushed me into the arms of this movie—on VHS, no less—was a breakup. Years of study have shown that nothing makes a broken heart whole again so well as a pint of Häagen-Dazs and a stupid comedy (though one ought always be careful with the insipid romantic comedies, one of which Boomerang comes dangerously close to being—stoner comedies, whose interest in sex is purely prurient, are generally the safest). More, Eddie Murphy needs to do little more than flash his crazy smile to have me in stitches. And so Boomerang seemed a benign enough choice, even culling bonus points for its early 90s styling (because, to be honest, those were the days I began to come of age).

Is it an absurdist prank to attempt to write a critical response to a movie like this? I didn’t bother to say anything about Pootie Tang, except that I could watch whatever I damn well please and oughtn’t be judged for it. Boomerang features another one of those early Chris Rock gems; the boy is nearly unrecognizable if you’re accustomed to his current suited, shaven, and iced-out television persona. In Boomerang he’s just one rung up the ladder from Pookie (his crack-addict character in New Jack Swing), a mail cart pusher who’s the eyes and ears of the company, and who wants a promotion to the top on day two in exchange. But the story belongs to Eddie Murphy’s character, a classic Casanova (slash player slash PUA, depending on your hyper-sexed male subgenre of choice) looking for the perfect woman (that is to say, the hottie with the surprisingly busted up feet doesn’t make it through one whole night). An ad exec (actually more of an art director, but with all of the pull of an executive, and none of the creative talent of an artist) at a cosmetics company, he sleeps with an aged Eartha Kitt (aka Catwoman) (the figurehead of the company buying out his employer) so that she’ll make him the head of the new department. Everything is coming up roses until he meets the hottest woman he’s ever seen, and finds out she’s his new boss—he slapped that sack for nothing. Adding insult to injury, the new boss lady doesn’t seem to want to date him.

Of course they do hook up on a business trip, and then again and again, sporadically, but she does a nice number out-Casanova-ing him, until he realizes that he was actually in love with Halle Berry’s character all the while (a very young, round-featured Halle Berry who belies the fact that today’s ultra-diesel Halle Berry is the icy, android product of certain cosmetic. . . adjustments), an artist at the company. Of course, he screws things up royally by being his typical ego-maniacal self, but at the very end, he wins her back by taking over her volunteer gig (teaching art to inner city kids) when she’s left the company to move onto her own creative directorial role at the competitor (where she has morphed most disturbingly into a clone of her old boss/competition/friend-turned-nemesis). And so all ends happily (for them if not for me).

Along the way, though, is the most fantastic thing of all, and it’s not Eddie’s brazen smile (of Halle’s shy one either), or Eartha’s growling, or the comic foiling provided by David Alan Grier and Martin Lawrence, or Robin Given’s narrow little body in black lace underwear. It’s the explosive Grace Jones as the even more explosive (and difficult) Strangé, the sex symbol who is to be the cosmetic company’s new mascot, and who, in Frenchified English, tries to teach a boardroom of executives discussing Parfum what the essence of sex is by tearing off her g-string and rubbing it in their faces. While Murphy’s ad man is lost in love (or tending a broken heart—I can’t remember), he gives his subordinate carte blanche to shoot the new Strangé perfume ad, and the results are a totally brilliant disaster (much better than the “brilliant” pap the recovered man later turns out, with the help of his new artsy lover), redefining provocation with a bloody scene of writhing menstruation turned birth, when Strangé at last pushes the perfume bottle out between her blood-covered legs. It’s kind of amazing that the movie includes something like this, even if it’s designed only to demonstrate the very disaster of the adman’s broken heart.

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