Can We Forgive Steve Martin?
by Richard Wallace

Shopgirl Spoiler Alert

I don't make a lot of money, but I don't have a lot of bills either, you might say I live beneath my means. I don't eat the crackers shaped like fish; I eat the crackers shaped like squares, although I could easily afford the fish. Not braggin', just sayin'. Since I have always been the kind of person that would rather pay for something outright than get it on credit, I'm not really familiar with large sums of debt. I had a student loan follow me for a while, from a class that did nothing for me, I'll mention, but I eventually paid it off.

I know about working to pay for things that I would rather do, like staring into this box or watching movies I've purchased.richard01.jpg But obviously, I know nothing about getting a movie made out of my novel since I don't have a finished novel, much less a successful published one. Novella, they tell me "Shopgirl" is a novella. I suppose it fits, although I've never been fond of that term. It's a book, it's not short enough to be a 'short story'; just call it a novel and be done with it. This will actually get us to the point of my column, keep reading. So Steve Martin writes this novel, and it surprises a lot of people that never expected such a thing from the likes of him, especially with such past literary oddities as "The Cruel Shoes" and "Pure Drivel". (Both are great for different reasons, but also each a far cry from "Shopgirl".) A series of Hollywood events leads to the treat that is "Shopgirl" the movie, but please don't expect anything other than what the box/IMDb tells you. It's a sad, romantic, real-life kind of thing, with some funny parts. I liked it, even viewed on a 7.5 screen while on vacation. It is on my re-view list as well as my book list, although I don't read nearly enough offline these days. I really just want to see how badly the Jeremy character suffered in the transition from book to film. I sensed, and have had confirmed by someone that has seen and read them both that this is a weak part of the film. It's not like I think she and Ray should have been together, but I wasn't entirely convinced that Mirabelle should give two shakes about Jeremy. I'm guessing he was more developed in the book, I'll let you know.

What I'm getting at is, If Martin's expenses are such that we have to endure such tripe as a string of bride's Father movies, cheaper by the six-pack inanities, Bilko, Clouseau, the remakes, geez, the remakes, if that's what has to happen to allow him to make "Shopgirl"; "Bowfinger"; "Novocaine"; then I say yes, we can forgive you, Steve. If we had to miss out on "Mixed Nuts" or "A Simple Twist of Fate" to eradicate all of your movies with 'House' in the title, then let's just not travel in time to do that.

BUT: All of that is entirely wrong. We live in a society where we are not forced to view things that suck. Therefore, there is no forgiveness necessary, whatever you gotta do to make a buck is fine; it's not like they fooled me into seeing "Bringin' Down the Hizzie" or whatever it was called. One just has to adjust their thinking when deciding whether a film is worthwhile viewing. Just because you're a Steve Martin fan doesn't mean you're going to enjoy everything he's been involved with; he's like Robin Williams now. No harm, no foul; no forgiveness necessary. I even kind of liked "The Pink Panther", although I did see it with juveniles.richard02.jpg

I'm not recommending that you go to any trouble to see "Shopgirl", "Novocaine" or "Bowfinger", 'cause none of them is for everyone, but they each worked for me. Bowfinger, in particular, is a great movie, perhaps even a great film, but don't blame me if you don't like it. Bowfinger also stars Eddie Murphy, in what is likely the least make-up he's ever employed to play more than one role. By the way, what's up with that, Eddie? You yourself are the only person you can envision playing most of the roles in your movies, again I say; what's up with that? Anyway, since we've already determined that Steve Martin is forgiven, err, I mean, doesn't need forgiving, let's turn our attention to Mr. Murphy. Y'know, his brother is pretty funny, I've known that since his portrayal of Gusto in "CB4", tyvm Chappelle viewers; why can't he play one of these roles Eddie has himself slathered in putty to portray?

Sorry, sidetracked. The title question turns on a dime during the second week of theaters playing "Norbit": Can we forgive Eddie Murphy? It's been a long time since Gumby, Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood, and Buckwheat's assassination, a very, long, time. Having gone from teenaged stand-up to SNL cast member to movie star in the space of just a couple of years, Eddie released the now rare concert film "Delirious", became a superstar with "Beverley Hills Cop", and then it got interesting, to say the least. With "Coming to America" he apparently became hopelessly enchanted with the idea of wearing prosthetics and playing multiple roles, further evidenced with the underrated, under-appreciated "Vampire in Brooklyn", and firmly established with the 'Nutty' films.

Before all the costumes, before the 'Dolittles', came the concert film "Raw". In this one, Eddie wore an even gayer leather jumpsuit than the one from "Delirious" and spewed misogyny rather than homophobia, not that there is really anything wrong with bashing women or homosexuals for fun and profit; if that's your thing. In the one truly funny section of the film, Murphy relates a series of phone calls with Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. Apparently, Cosby put on his 'Veteran Show Biz Black Man Nurturer' hat and called Murphy to complain about his use of curse words and adult subject matter. Murphy relates subsequently asking the advice of Pryor, who advised him to "Tell Bill I said to have a Coke and a smile and STFU!" (This was a comment on the fact that, at that time in history, Cosby was not a professional entertainer; he was the soulless shill for Kodak, Coke, Jello, etc.) I bring this up because in the twenty years since "Raw": Murphy has become Cosby.richard03.jpg

I don't know if that deserves the irony tag, since it took two decades, but I am certain of one thing, we really shouldn't forgive Eddie Murphy for turning into the poster boy for inane family fare box office. Is this some sort of racist thing, I hear nobody asking, that Martin doesn't even need forgiving yet Murphy both needs it and doesn't deserve it? Stop being stupid, voice in my head; of course not. Was it arbitrarily decided simply because his bad movies are so much worse than Martin's? Yes, yes it was. And maybe a little leftover resentment because of having paid to see "Best Defense". I'll defend my position thiswise: Go sit through a pair of Dr. Dolittles and a pair of Cheaper Dozen movies and you tell me.

Any nominations of your own forgiveness-free former faves gone bad?

Richard has always taken good care of Ruprecht.



'Having gone from teenaged stand-up to SNL cast member'
is where stand-up to got moved up from.

I'll learn to proofread one of these days. :-(


Here! Here! I agree on both points. I'm a Martin and Murphy fan from way back. I grew up watching both of their careers soar, falter and watched them turn into men they'd once made fun of.

I think Martin has redeemed himself as an actor and comedian. Yes, he had to do a few bad movies, but who hasn't in Hollywood? If you look at his resume, I think the good movies outweigh the bad.

If you did that with Murphy's resume, I don't think the same would be true. His career was fine until he became a father and then suddenly he was a ogre's pet donkey, a father dressed as a piece of brocoli and a doctor who heard drunken animals.

I'll take Steve Martin pretending that Superman (Tom Welling of Smallville) is his son over Eddie Murphy and a bag of prosthetics anyday.


Oh man, the Steve Martin debate. I just lost a lot of points with a friend for forcing her to watch Shop Girl. The irony was that she had a deep-seated hatred of Martin and I thought this was the movie that would annihilate this hatred. I had a secret belief that Steve Martin was my long lost father. But after watching Shop Girl directed by Steve Martin, written by Steve Martin, produced? by Steve Martin??, narrated by Steve Martin, based on a 'novella' by Steve Martin...I OD'd on Steve Martin and had to be rushed to the ER, stat.
My stomach was pumped of the Steve Martin that was coarsing through my Steve Martiny veins. I've been off Steve Martin ever since, had a relapse at Christmas though ... I mean Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is basically the Citizen Kane of my generation.


Although, Jason Schwartzmann is brilliant, but there wasn't enough of him.


"I mean Cheaper by the Dozen 2 is basically the Citizen Kane of my generation."

Meaning 4 out 5 people that say they love it have never stayed awake all the way through? I'm joking, CbtD2 is definitely one of the movies I've never seen.


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