Eddie Murphy joins the ranks of other comedians who would only nominated for being in roles where they are mostly not funny. As well know an actor can only win or most the time even be nominated for an Oscar for a comedic role if they are just as prolific with their dramatic work like Peter Ustinov, Walter Matthau, Kevin Kline, or Jack Lemmon. If you are almost exclusively a comedic actor like Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, or Eddie Murphy you better make sure you role is mostly dramatic if you want to be nominated for that Oscar as Murray was.
Eddie Murphy plays James "Thunder" Early a flamboyant singer who takes on the three singers to be his backup early on. I must apologize for this review I really must. This is the only time this has ever happened to me in all my reviews of every performance that I have done. This entire performance by Eddie Murphy was impossible for me to separate from his previous performances. I really am sorry, but for whatever reason well I watching him here I could never detach this performance completely on his own.
For example James Early is suppose to be a charming energetic singer. I could never find myself actually seeing Eddie Murphy as charming here, not because he isn't charming. No the problem was for me was whenever he was being charming in Early's highly energetic fashion I could only see Eddie Murphy doing Buddy Love from the Nutty Professor. I honestly could not see him as the singer in this film, I only saw Buddy Love. It was driving me a little crazy actually that I could not separate this performance from his earlier work, but honestly I just could not.
This fact made it very difficult for me to really take him ever as this singer even though Murphy certainly is very believable in the singing scenes, but even they reminded me a little too much of his James Brown parody on Saturday Night Live. I just could never quite take this performance, well for lack of a better word, seriously. I never forgot his earlier work with his performance even though I did try best to look at it as a individual performance. I was never able to see it on its own terms, and because of that I never became invested in the character.
Murphy does put a lot of effort and energy in the part, doing his very best to show the charisma and constant manic intensity in the performance scenes. He also is believable enough, even though the film gives him very little time to deal with it, in portraying Early's later drug addiction and depression he faces later on. He does realize the part, but it never affected me as the film or Murphy wanted it to. The reason for this I would say mostly would be the fact that I could not detach his work here from his earlier comedic work. This certainly is a fine performance, but I can't say it was amazing. I also can't say I was really able to give this performance a fair shake, as I do believe my reaction could have been very different if I never say an Eddie Murphy performance before this one.