The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on November 17, 1989 · 151
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 151

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Friday, November 17, 1989
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i.os an(;i:i.i;s iimi s MOVIE REVIEW Eddie Murphy's 'Harlem Nights': Slick, Slack By MICHAEL WILMINGTON F8 iriday. novi:mhi:r 17, iw) sn 'HI "arlem Nights" (opening throughout San Diego .County) opens with something shocking for an Eddie Murphy movie: unintentional humor. In glamorous script, the credits announce that this is a Paramount presentation, in association with Eddie Murphy Productions ... of an Eddie Murphy film, starring . . . Eddie Murphy. The old Murphy the devilish kid who once disrupted a TV awards show by stealing Lionel Richie's Grammymight have quashed this crushed-silk canonization with a raucous, honking laugh. Instead, he has left the audience to do his honking while he eases himself into a stiff-waxy superstar persona as a 1930s Harlem lady-killer, club host, gambler and gunman extraordinaire named Quick. The movie that follows in which Quick and his mentor Sugar Ray (Richard Pryor) lead a retinue of high-rollers, "hos" and hangers-on in a turf war with the mob isn't totally barren of humor. But it's certainly barren. It's shot like a lesser '30s movie, full of empty streets, bare rooms and mostly empty and obvious movie sets. And Murphy, who also wrote and directed, keeps shuttling us between them as if his real name were Slow. If the inspirations are obvious "The Cotton Club" strained through "The Sting" the execution sometimes suggests Walter Hill, on a bad day, trying to imitate Mervyn LeRoy. Against this drowsy, drab background full of vendettas and long-winded sadism, with people crushing each others' hands, slitting throats, torching clubs and gunning each other down all the elegance is ersatz and all the sex is mean and conniving. The actors supply the only energy, but their badinage often sounds like comics ragging each other to pad out an improvised sketch. The movie is full of phallic gags about little-bitty guns and crude jokes at physical or emotional infirmities: Stan Shaw's bizarrely punchy heavyweight champ, Ar-senio Hall's hysterical gunman who can't stop crying, and Delia Reese as the rotund madam Vera, whose barrelhouse contours and posterior supply a stream of gags, especially after Quick shoots off one of her toes. Sadism mixes with sentimentality. In his only love scene, Quick shoots his partner (Jasmine Guy) and poor, waddling nine-toed Vera is later made to pathetically bawl out her love for him. In this buddy-buddy-buddy movie with three generations of great stand-up comics (Murphy, Pryor and Redd Foxx) together-two buddies always melt into the background. Pryor grays over into a grinning paterfamilias, popping up occasionally to give Quick a sidekick. Foxx, at first funny as a cantankerous craps croupier too blind to read the dice, turns from instigator of jokes to the butt of them. Some fine comics like Robin Harris, great in the street chorus of Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" are hardly used. Others, like Delia Reese, are abused. Laurence Paull's production design lacks glitter. The movie' also lacks the Harlem outside the gaudy gangland environs, the poverty, filth, pain, humanity, humor and danger that feeds these mobster fantasies. 'SIDEWALK STORIES' IS "...magicaL.abold and utterly enchanting creation" -Sheila Benson, LOS ANGELES TIMES -JackOamer, GANNETT NEWSSERVICE .: Ifrw . jar. . 1 ! 1 ,d,..MMjJ AntiMndfciiifMlWMW l9a9Pjhnnlum,lK- NOW PLAYING AMC CENTURY 14 Century City '553-8900 Daily: 1:00, 3:30, 6:10, 8:20, 10:30 rjrjnwtmo)" NEWPORT BEACH Balboa Cinema (714)675-3570 Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor in "Harlem Nights": empty slickness. Maybe that enclosure within a world of sex, style and might at the top hints at the problem. Like many superstars, Eddie Murphy may have gotten so tangled up in the myths and myopia of high-power movie making that he can't get back to the gritty, pungent, kick-in-the-throat awareness earlier audiences loved. Since 1984, in popular mausoleum efforts like "The Golden Child," "Coming to America" or the second "Beverly Hills Cop," he's mostly stopped doing what he does best the quick-witted, generous outsider in a recognizably corrupt urban landscapewhile entombing himself in glossed-up, borrowed movie-movie images, like Harrison Ford in "The Golden Child" or some mix of Gable and Redford here. If he's going to confine himself to bad movies like "Harlem Nights" (rated R for sex, violence and language), it's probably better that he writes and directs them himself. At least he's learning new skills. But he needs, probably, to forget that he's EDDIE MURPHY. Maybe he needs a fresh young kid to run up and steal a Grammy from him. 'HARLEM NIGHTS' A Paramount Pictures presentation in association with Eddie Murphy productions. Producers Robert D. Wachs, Mark Lipsky. Directorscriptexecutive producer Murphy. Camera Woody Omens. Editor George Bowers. Production design Lawrence G. Paull. Costume design Joe I. Tompkins. Music Herbie Hancock. With Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx. Danny Aiello, Michael Lerner, Delia Reese, Stan Shaw, Jasmine Guy, Berlinda Tolbert, Vic Polizos. Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes. MPAA rating: R (younger than 17 requires an accompanying parent or adult guardian). a .fill Q&J&m "to OF THE DEST : : THE MOVIE GROUP KASSOCiHONwiTH SVS, INC. wsenis ERIC ROBERTS JAMES EARL JONES SALLY KIRKLAND BEST OF THE BEST sttimiNG PHILLIP RHEE JOHN P. RYAN JOHN DYE DAVID AGRESTA TON EVERETT mm saw LOUISE FLETCHER mtkooucingSIMON RHEEasdaehan ano CHRISTOPHER PENN asm ukuiiw nam HCHAtl H0UHAN JEFF RiNGL we FRANK GMSTRA itKcomioiwnrawtlWlGlimN wawwwuDfBOMH SCOTT iKiwuiiiMAHflN STAGS KnaWltUAHHOT wmamom DOUG WAN urttUf RHftjFWJllfVlNt mmtHikmi woucidh PHtUf RHtE -w P(TH SIRAUiS McnodCtHOUIt NOW PLAYING WESTW0O0 HOUVWOOO GCC Avco Cinema UA Egyptian 4750711 4676167 0i: 12 30 240 Daly iIS 930 :I0):30'9:S AZUSA BREA UA Movies Edwards FoolhM 171419904022 CERRIIOS UA Twin 924 5514 MONTCLAIR UA Movies 1714)621 5027 NORTH HOUVWOOO UA Movies 18181 766 4317 ORANGE AMC Orange Mall 17141 637 0340 ORANGE Stadium Drive In (714) 639 8770 REDONDO BEACH GCC South Bay 542 4361 RIVERSIDE UA Park Sierra 17141 3596995 WESTMINSTER UA Mall 171418930546 SAN PEDRO Knkorian Terrace Cinema 6 831 7469 W0001AND WHS UA Warner Center 18181 999 2130 swwr m sis KMPIIDIM IIIS Center Cinemas 18181 969 9632 BUENA PARK UA Movies 17141 9524992 cMiralj EAST 10S ANGELES LANCASTER VICIORVItLE Boulevard The Movies 1 4 Movies 7 263 9042 18051 945 8686 16191 245 0233 hid mm m a mm ffir7p "OUTDOES DISNEY... A SPECTACULAR OUTDOOR ADVENTURE. Photographed with breathtaking skill!' - Bruce Williamson, PLAYBOY "SOMETHING QUITE SPECIAL... A movie unlike any other you have ever seen!' - Gene Shalit, TODAY SHOW, NBC-TV "A WONDROUS MOVIE... 'The Bear' is to other films about nature what 'Star Wars' was to Science Fiction movies: a redefinition of the state of the art!' - Richard Schickel, TIME MAGAZINE "COULD BE TO THE '90's WHAT 'E.T.' WAS TO THE '80's. One of the most entertaining movies you'll ever see!' - Robert Osborne, THE MOVIE CHANNEL "A GREAT FILM! One of the most extraordinary films I have seen. I was totally enthralled!' - Joel Siegel, ABC-TV -"THE (A 1 mm NOW PLAYING AT THESE SAN DIEGO THEATRES AMC WIEGAND PLAZA 220 North El Camino Real Encinitas 942-5544 MANN 9 MOVIES EL CENTR0 Marketplace at the Grove Highway 86 3450 College Ave. 229-0561 353-5572 MANN UNIVERSITY PACIFIC'S CENTER CINEMAS '-'l EDWARDS MIRA MESA CINEMAS T0WNE CENTRE I-8 at Stadium Way PARKWAY TRI PLEX 81 18 Mira Mesa Blvd. La Jolla Village Dr. & Genesee Mission Valley 1288 Fletcher Parkway 566-1912 452-7766 297-1888 El Cajon . 449-7800 PACIFIC SWEETWATER 6 S0CAL'S PLAZA UNITED ARTISTS UNITED ARTISTS Town & Country Shopping Ctr. CAMINO REAL CINEMA GLASSHOUSE H0RT0N PLAZA 8U5Pwy. at Sweetwater 2385 Marron Rd. 3156 Sports Arena Blvd. North Terrace Pi Carlsbad San Diego Level 3 234-4661 223-2546 UNITED ARTISTS 8 ESC0NDID0 362 West El Norte Parkway TFo? Escondido 745-4470 PRESENTED IN S.0. 1117

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