USA 1999

Reviewed by Charles Taylor


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Would-be film-maker Bobby Bowfinger is forever scrounging on the fringes of the Hollywood system. When his accountant writes Chubby Rain, an alien-invasion script, Bowfinger shows it to studio executive Jerry Renfro who becomes interested in the project - but only if Bowfinger can guarantee the involvement of action-movie superstar Kit Ramsey.

Bowfinger contrives to make Kit the unknowing star of Chubby Rain by shooting him surreptitiously as his actors approach him and say their lines. Kit, who has sought the help of a cult to cure his paranoid delusions about extraterrestrials, falls prey to those delusions once again as he is confronted by strangers spouting gibberish about aliens. Needing some way for Kit to participate in dialogue scenes, Bowfinger stumbles upon the movie buff Jeff who bears a striking resemblance to Kit, and who turns out to be his brother. Filming proceeds, ultimately with Kit's knowing involvement, and Chubby Rain becomes a hit.


For satire to work it has to focus on its target with laser-guided precision, or take pot-shots so wild that sheer audacity keeps it bowling along. But Bowfinger's director Frank Oz has never been known for his finesse, and Steve Martin, who wrote the screenplay and also plays the title role, hasn't decided whether this take on the movie business is satire, farce or twisted wish-fulfilment fantasy. There was an element of wish fulfilment in Martin's screenplays for both Roxanne (1987) and L.A. Story (1991). The latter was savvy to the plastic unreality of Los Angeles but what came through most strongly was Martin's pixilated affection for the city. The more fanciful elements, such as the digital freeway sign that flashed private messages, came to seem like natural phenomena in a town where the inhabitants have remade reality itself.

In Bowfinger that affection has been replaced by contempt. Oz trains the camera on the decaying brown walls of Bowfinger's Spanish-style bungalow and sees none of the seedy vitality found, say, in The Late Show (1977), Robert Benton's noir-ish take on movieland's shabby fringes. Bowfinger looks at its namesake with the same disdain with which studio honchos regard him when he tries to crash a power lunch. Neither Oz's shoddy staging nor the undeveloped tone of Martin's script is as bad as the film's self-congratulatory cynicism. The particular hypocrisy of Bowfinger is that the movie is so clearly a product of the big-budget mainstream it invites the audience to feel superior to. (It has been sold in the US as the meeting of two big comic stars with an ad campaign that ignores Eddie Murphy's role as Kit.)

The treatment of Murphy and Heather Graham is particularly problematic. Murphy brings some satirical juice to the rantings of a pampered black star about the racism that pervades the industry. But the laughs these lines might get stick in your throat when you see he has been shot in sputtering, eye-rolling close-ups, uncomfortable traces of Hollywood's racist stereotyping of black performers. Graham's role as an opportunist whose talent is for sleeping her way to the top and who winds up a lesbian is simply vile, Martin's caddish and transparent jibe at his ex Anne Heche. Given the quality of Martin's recent work (Father of the Bride, Sgt. Bilko) and the quality of Heche's in Donnie Brasco and Psycho, you'd hardly think he's in a position to comment on her talent.

Often it's impossible to tell how Bowfinger wants us to react. It's a film that wants us to laugh knowingly at the deal-making that takes place over a power lunch, but also to accept that a starry-eyed Midwestern girl getting off a Greyhound and asking, "Where do I go to become an actress?" can make it. It wants us, in the age of The Matrix, to believe that Bobby Bowfinger's Ed Wood-style epic would be a smash. The only real accuracy and sting come in Robert Downey Jr's brilliant cameo as the essence of all the young execs who take pleasure in being so mindless. Satire that doesn't draw blood risks stroking the targets it claims to skewer, affirming the status quo it means to upset. Bowfinger should please the big stars and studio execs who can laugh at their on-screen representations and thus display their own hipness, and it should please audiences who can pretend that swallowing the crap Hollywood shovels out is fine as long as you're hip enough to know it's crap. Bowfinger bears the same relation to satire as reports of the weekend grosses do to journalism.


Brian Grazer
Steve Martin
Director of Photography
Ueli Steiger
Richard Pearson
Production Designer
Jackson DeGovia
David Newman
©Universal Studios
Production Companies
Universal and Imagine Entertainment present a Brian Grazer production
Executive Producers
Karen Kehela
Bernie Williams
Associate Producer
Kathleen Courtney
Production Co-ordinator
Deborah Bird
Unit Production Manager
Bernie Williams
Key Location Manager
Molly Allen
Location Manager
Lisa Blok-Linson
Post-production Supervisor
Leslie J. Converse
Assistant Directors
Michele Panelli-Venetis
Matt Rebenkoff
Basil Bryant Grillo
Evan L. Gilner
Script Supervisor
Luca Kouimelis
Margery Simkin
Carmen Cuba
Loop Group:
Sondra James
Camera Operators
Billy O'Drobinak
Guy Norman Bee
Nathaniel Goodman
Steadicam Operator
Guy Norman Bee
Visual effects
Illusion Arts
Syd Dutton
Bill Taylor
Digital Supervisor:
Richard Patterson
Head Compositor:
David S. Williams Jr
Senior Matte Artist:
Mike Wassel
Matte Artists:
Kelvin McIlwain
Kenneth Nakada
Illusion Arts Producer:
Catherine Sudolcan
Fumi Mashimo
Camera Operator:
Adam Kowalski
Kelly G. Crawford
Special Effects
Philip Cory
Richard Cory
Model Maker
Karl Martin
Graphic Designer
Susan Burig
Art Director
Tom Reta
Set Designers
Karl Martin
Les Gobruegge
Dawn Snyder
Set Decorator
K.C. Fox
Storyboard Artist
Marc Baird
Costume Designer
Joseph G. Aulisi
Costume Supervisor
Kendall Errair
Steve Artmont
Rick Sharp
Key Hair Stylists
Gloria Albarran Ponce
Special Effects Make-up
Matthew W. Mungle
Prosthetic Dental Technician
Gary Archer
Main/End Titles Design
Nina Saxon
Opticals/Chubby Rain Titles
Pacific Title/Mirage
Music Performed by Electric Bass:
Neal Stubenhaus
Steve Schaeffer
Dean Parks
George Doering
Mike Lang
Jim Cox
Dan Higgins
Latin Percussion:
Lenny Castro
Alexander Janko
Music Supervisor
Pilar McCurry
Music Co-ordinator
Melodee Sutton
Music Editor
J.J. George
Scoring Mixer
John Kurlander
Marty Frasu
Score Consultant
Krystyna Newman
"There Is Always One More Time" by Kenneth W. Hirsch, Doc Pomus, performed by Johnny Adams; "You're a Wonderful One" by Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, Edward Holland Jr, performed by Marvin Gaye; "After Hours", "Fourth Floor Ladies Shoes" by/performed by Daniel May; "The Eau Zone" by/performed by Jimmy Kaleth; "Legend of a Cowgirl" by Imani Coppola, Michael Mangini, Donovan Leitch, performed by Imani Coppola; "El burro polillos" performed by Mariachi Reyes del Aserradero; "Wake Up" by/performed by Geoff Levin, Chris Many; "Maximum Beat" by/performed by Victor 'X-Man' Taylor; "Super Smooth" by/performed by E. Callins, Chieli Minucci; "Setembro (Brazilian Wedding Song)" by Ivan Lins, Zitor Martins, performed by Quincy Jones; "And I Love You So" by Don McLean, performed by Perry Como; "Mambo UK" by Jesús Alemañy, performed by !Cubanismo!; "Super Bad, Super Slick" by/performed by James Brown; "Fifth of Beethoven" by/performed by Walter Murphy; "When You Go Deep" by/performed by Michael McGregor; "Pick Up the Pieces" by Roger Ball, Alan Gorrie, Robbie McIntosh, Malcolm Duncan, Hamish Stuart, Owen McIntyre, performed by Average White Band; "Secret Agent Man" by Steve Barri, P.F. Sloan, performed by Johnny Rivers; "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas, performed by Bus Stop featuring Carl Douglas
Sound Mixer
Martin Raymond Bolger
Re-recording Mixers
Lee Dichter
Ron Bochar
Supervising Sound Editor
Ron Bochar
Dialogue Editor
Magdaline Volaitis
Sound Effects Editor
Lewis Goldstein
David Boulton
Alan Holly
Supervising Editor:
Marissa Littlefield
Juno Ellis
Marko Costanzo
Jay Peck
Matt Haasch
Supervising Editor:
Ben Cheah
Kam Chan
Tim O'Shea
Stunt Co-ordinator
Bud Davis
Animal Suppliers
Performing Animal Troupe
Head Animal Trainer
Gregg Pittman
Animal Trainer
Charity M. Parsons
Helicopter Pilots
Peter J. McKernan Sr
Peter J. McKernan Jr
Alan Purwin
Steve Martin
Bobby Bowfinger
Eddie Murphy
Kit Ramsey/Jeff Ramsey
Heather Graham
Christine Baranski
Jamie Kennedy
Barry Newman
Kit's agent
Adam Alexi-Malle
Kohl Sudduth
Terence Stamp
Terry Stricter
Robert Downey Jr
Jerry Renfro
Alejandro Patino
Alfred De Contreras
Ramiro Fabian
Johnny Sanchez
Claude Brooks
Kevin Scannell
LA cop
John Prosky
MindHead executive
Michael Dempsey
camera security guard
Walter Powell
Federal Express man
Phill Lewis
actor at audition
Marisol Nichols
young actress at audition
Nathan Anderson
clothing sales clerk
Brogan Roche
Renfro's executive
John Cho
nightclub cleaner
Lloyd Berman
camera store clerk
Zaid Farid
Kit's limo driver
Aaron Brumfield
Kevin Grevioux
Kit's bodyguards
Kimble Jemison
Kit's assistant
Alex Craig Mann
studio executive
Laura Grady
E Channel interviewer
Reamy Hall
Michelle Boehle
Kimberly Baum
Megan Denton
Janet Jaeger
Hope Wood
Addie Yungmee
Andrea Toste
Laker girls
Betsy, Bowfinger's dog
United International Pictures (UK) Ltd
8,745 feet
97 minutes 10 seconds
SDDS/Dolby digital/Digital DTS sound
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011