VAULTED TREASURES: MOVIES YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT, YOU FORGOT,
... OR YOU FORGOT TO LOVE MORE THE FIRST TIME AROUND!
Dir. by - Reginald Hudlin
Prod. by - Brian Grazer, Warrington Hudlin
Screenplay - Barry Blaustein,
Story by - Eddie Murphy
Screenplay - Barry Blaustein,
Story by - Eddie Murphy
Director of Photography -
Edited by - Earl Watson,
John Carter, Michael Jablow
John Carter, Michael Jablow
Production Design -
Music - Marcus Miller
Run Time: 117 mins.
Run Time: 117 mins.
Production Companies - Imagine Entertainment, Eddie Murphy Productions
Dist. by - Paramount Pictures
GullCottage rating(**** on a scale of 1-5)
|Director Reginald Hudlin / 2017|
My response to both were, "You're overlooking the fact that this genre didn't really exists as we now know it until ..." the aforementioned BUTCH & SUNDANCE and CONNECTION. For, while both were indeed damn good movies upon their initial releases, ... and critically acclaimed and the whole nine yards, yadda yadda, ... the passage of time went on to etch their respective places in cinema history as ultimately much more. They became benchmarks or touchstones - certainly in relation to the films which would follow in their wake. And only the passage of time can reveal a particular film as such. I mean, hell, look today at 48HRS., LETHAL WEAPON, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE or whatever, and you can almost see the umbilical - pumping blood, oxygen and everything else - leading right back to the prenatal womb which is BUTCH & SUNDANCE.
And, while (duh?) police procedural films certainly existed before THE FRENCH CONNECTION, most were either very noirish or at the very least highly stylized. Even films like BULLITT and SHAFT were very slick, cool and fashion conscious. But after CONNECTION crime films were given visual and tonal license to be down & dirty and realistically near pseudo-documentary profane (see the soon to follow THE TAKING OF PELHAM, REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER and SERPICO); and they began to take place more and more in that “grey area” landscape where there existed a very thin line between the psychology of the cops and the crooks. And in this regard think of the later PRINCE OF THE CITY, BLACK RAIN, TO LIVE & DIE IN L.A. and others.
|Changing the cinematic vernacular: |
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969 / top),
THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971 / bottom)
Similarly, while it may be hard to remember almost (Wow!) 30 yrs. later!!!, Reginald Hudlin's BOOMERANG was very much a similar (what I like to call) "fulcrum shift" film. In this case it was a game-changer in the acceptance by a major studio of African-American characters in a film by an African-American director which became a mainstream hit for that studio. Now, does being a financial hit make a film a classic or "fulcrum shift" pivot point? Of course not. But (and this is the really important part here) BOOMERANG's success would help to insure that other such mainstream films would be made by other African-American directors in the future. Films like Forest Whitaker's WAITING TO EXHALE, Malcolm Lee's THE BEST MAN and all the way up to Tim Story's BARBERSHOP - wherein the lives and lifestyles of workaday African-Americans (and not just super cops or young people attempting to escape the horrors of the 'hood) became known to the rest of the world. Now, while this may also be hard to remember, this was not always the case. Yeah, even as recently as 30 ago.
|(L to R) WAITING TO EXHALE (1995), THE BEST MAN (1999), BARBERSHOP (2002)|
Keep in mind that when it comes to color, … and while there is still (I mean, let's be realistic) more than a fair share of ignorance and prejudice walking around in Hollywood's halls of power, the color which in the end most encourages or discourages the average studio isn’t necessarily black, white, red or yellow, but ultimately green … or the lack thereof. Combine that with the famous film industry axiom that "It's always easier and safer to say 'no'", and you've got the recipe as to why for far too many years far too many studios fell back on the oft repeated mythical b.s. safety net mantra that "Movies by ethnic filmmakers aren't big hits with crossover audiences". BOOMERANG finally took that excuse (and that's all it was all along) away.
|The members of the First Artists production company -|
(L to R) Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand and Sidney Poitier
|The Eddie Murphy "Golden 80s Trifecta" of (L to R) 48HRS. (1982),|
BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984), COMING TO AMERICA (1988)
Moving later down the line some might point (as did many studio execs back then) to the huge piles of green raked in by earlier Eddie Murphy films like COMING TO AMERICA, the aforementioned 48HRS. and BEVERLY HILLS COP as examples of "black films" which beat BOOMERANG to the punch in that regard. But a) the Murphy characters in those films were more highly stylized, tropish and / or very genre-based - which is to say not realistic, ... or even as in the case of COMING TO AMERICA a deliberate fairy-tale concoction of sorts. And b) all of those films were (and, yeah, I know I’m running the chance of getting into potentially sticky ground here, but this is very important) by white filmmakers. In fact it was this particular aspect which made many studio execs at the time feel the films were safer and less risky.
No! I don't hold with the belief that only people of color should make films about people of color, or that films about any people should only be made by a filmmaker from that same group of people. But I do believe a member of a particular group can often bring to a film a great many more little known insights and observations which someone not of that group can bring. Insights and minute cultural details (of both small and large significance), the existence of which the non-group person may not even be aware.
|(top) SMOKE SIGNALS (1998 / dir. - Chris Eyre),|
(bottom) THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (2010 / dir. - Lisa Cholodenko)
|Among BOOMERANG's legendary "Old Guard":|
(L to R) Eartha Kitt, Geoffrey Holder, John Witherspoon, Melvin Van Peebles
By the way, in case that murderer’s row cast line-up didn’t tip you off, BOOMERANG is in some respects very much a loving cinematic passing of the mantle from an earlier group of barrier-breaking black artists (Kitt, Holder, Witherspoon, Van Peebles, et al) to the (then) young up-and-coming one charged with carrying on their legacy. In retrospect today it is now also a bittersweet passing of that mantle as within that group of older artists all but Van Peebles have since passed away.
|Among BOOMERANG's (at the time) up-and-coming "New Guard":|
(L to R) Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Tisha Campbell
|Hudlin and Murphy on the streets of NYC|
Interestingly this same kind of "ethnic presumption" is exemplified in the film itself in a scene where Marcus (Murphy) and his two closest friends and business compadres - Tyler (Martin Lawrence) and Gerard (David Alan Grier) - shop at an Upper West Side men's clothing boutique and are not only tailed throughout the establishment by a suspicious salesperson. But when Tyler asks the price of a jacket, he's told "We don't have layaway". When the guys react to the comment in a justifiably offended manner, they're then told by the fearful employee in a "please don't hurt me" voice "We don't keep cash on the premises". The scene is both hilarious and enraging at the same time. And if you're an African-American there's a good chance it also has a tragic ring of familiarity to it as well.
The fact-of-the-matter of the day (as unfair as it was) is that until BOOMERANG most films from African-American filmmakers, ... the only films which seemed to find distributors (or at the very least the ones able to grab the media and awards season attention)... were the "Hood films" cut from the BOYZ 'N THE HOOD, STRAIGHT OUTTA BROOKLYN, SOUTH CENTRAL mode. Sure, there was the occasional art house exception like Julie Dash's visually elegant (and visually eloquent) DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991), or Spike Lee's sprawling MALCOLM X (released later in '92 as well). But the fact is Dash never made another theatrical feature film after DAUGHTERS. And Lee couldn't get Warner Bros. to fully fund the 3 hour film he wanted to make. So he did the back-then version of crowdfunding by getting celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and Prince to financially get behind his vision of the project.
|(top) Julie Dash / DAUGHTERS FO THE DUST (1991),|
(bottom) Spike Lee / MALCOLM X (1992)
And as far as T.V. "back in the day" of BOOMERANG ... . Well, while during the era of the late 1960s / early 70s Civil Rights and Black Power Movements there had been proactive / self-determining black characters in shows such as JULIA, ROOM 222 and Norman Lear's THE JEFFERSONS, by the 1980s era of Reganomics and the rise of what some would call "Yuppie-ism", black characters - even the leads in TV series such as DIFFERENT STROKES, GIMMIE A BREAK and BENSON - were often either orphans adopted by "rich white saviors" or were domestics working for them. And even mainstream hits like THE COSBY SHOW and A DIFFERENT WORLD were considered (this phrase always gets me!) "unicorns" in that such a crossover success - even a huge one like COSBY at the time - was considered too rare to be thought of as a new commercial norm or lasting paradigm.The financial success of BOOMERANG, however (produced for $42 million and taking in $131 million), held it's own against other Summer of '92 hits such as BATMAN RETURNS, LETHAL WEAPON 3 and UNFORGIVEN, and signaled a change in the kinds of films black directors, writers and more were henceforth able to get into the mainstream. But it still wasn't an easy progression.
I vividly remember Spike Lee's former cinematographer Ernest Dickerson (MALCOLM X, JUNGLE FEVER, MO' BETTER BLUES, DO THE RIGHT THING) catching flack from a (I guess) well meaning / well intentioned white film critic who felt that after making a stunning directorial debut with 1992's violent Harlem youth drama JUICE starring Omar Epps and Tupac Shakur, Dickerson was "wasting his talent" on genre fare like 1993's SURVIVING THE GAME (a modern take-off on Richard Connell's THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME with Ice T and Rutger Hauer), and 1994's TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT.
|Ernest Dickerson -|
(L to R) JUICE (1992), SURVIVING THE GAME (1994),
TALES FROM THE CRYPT PRESENTS: DEMON KNIGHT (1995)
The statement evident in up-and-coming black filmmakers making such “popcorn flicks” - apart from the very pragmatic one that we can make a studio’s cash registers ring just as effectively as our less "melanin enhanced" cinematic brethren can - was that our lives and history consisted of both positive and negative aspects. And like any other filmmaker, African-American ones began to demand the right to tell all of those stories, and not just the ones a collection of Hollywood suits in a boardroom or pitch meeting thought were comfortably and commercially “urban“. I mean, look at the other important filmmakers who dove into those "less artistic" “popcorn” genres for the sheer pleasure of fun and homage - among them Richard Donner, Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis, John Frankenheimer, William Friedkin, Freddie Francis and others - all of whom also directed TALES FROM THE CRYPT stories by way of the tv series which lead to Dickerson’s theatrical film.
|Changing the social mindset via satire -|
(clockwise) YOU NATZY SPY! (1940), THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940),
TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942)
During the rise of Fascism in the 1930s / early 40s in Europe - a time when many in America held isolationist views and felt it wasn’t “America’s business” to protest and get involved; mostly as it would harm U.S. business interests abroad - satirist fired the first loud volleys against that Fascism in the form of The Three Stooges’ YOU NATZY SPY! (1940), Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940), and Ernst Lubitsch’s TO BE OR NOT TO BE (1942) - all of which, by the way, were criticized by many in the U.S. at the time as “stirring up trouble”. That is, of course, until Dec. 7, 1941, after which they were then considered “ahead of their time”.
|Changing the social mindset via satire -|
(clockwise) IN LIVING COLOR (1990), I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA' (1988),
HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE (1987)
In the late 1980s / early 90s one could observe a similar fermenting of not only “artistic disenchantment”, but a general societal disenchantment / lack of tolerance with the current status quo in regards to the growing stereotypical depiction of African-Americans in film, television, news and more. And the creative ferment backlash against that mindset first began to make itself known via satirical outlets such as the ground-breaking sketch comedy series IN LIVING COLOR (1990 - ’94), and films like Robert Townsend's HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE ('87) and Keenan Ivory Wayans I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA! ('88) - all of which hilariously, and at times brutally, made mincemeat out of not only the popular media‘s depiction of blacks in America at the time (lampooning everything from the blaxploitation images of the 70s through the gang-banger flicks of the 80s), but also skewered the stereotypical images many blacks in America had come to believe about themselves.
Hudlin’s BOOMERANG cleverly bridged comedy and romance (and, yeah, no kidding - even a little drama!). And it’s financial success served as a “See, we told you so” back up / justification / validation to the backlash which IN LIVING COLOR and the others had begun to stir up. It performed the “passing of the mantle” from the older generation to the next, and simultaneously set the stage in order that the next generation might take what it had inherited and carry it further in a more diverse depiction of African-Americans in both media and society from then onward.
Now, did Hudlin, screenwriters Murphy, Barry Blaustein & David Sheffield and the others do / create all of this socially relevant “fulcrum shift stuff" consciously, ... deliberately? I honestly don‘t believe so. Generally speaking the average (and usually most effective) film artists aren’t those who are necessarily “trying to deliver a message”. Yeah, there are those “message films” which can and do strike a cord within the populace. But more often it’s those films which are just seeking to be entertaining - and in the midst of being entertaining happen to strike a nerve within the cultural / psychological zeitgeist - that ultimately end up as “sign posts” films within a particular era.
So, yeah, changing the world can be hilarious business.
Well played, Playa!
* Los Angeles Times - ON "BOOMERANG" AND ISSUES OF BLACK AND WHITE: ALL WE WANT IS EQUAL TREATMENT (7/20/92 - by Eddie Murphy)
* New York Times - THE HUDLIN BROTHERS SET OUT TO PROVE BLACK IS BOUNTIFUL (7/26/92 - by Patrick Pacheco)
* Entertainment Weekly - THE UNTOLD STORY OF "BOOMERANG" EDDIE MURPHY'S UNDERRATED ROM-COM CLASSIC (2/11/19 - by Kristen Baldwin)
* First Klass Breakfast - DIRECTOR REGINALD HUDLIN TALKS "BOOMERANG" 25 YEARS LATER, "MARSHALL" AND MORE (Sept. 2017 - by Regg)
* Roger Ebert.com (orig. pub. Chicago Sun Times) - "BOOMERANG" MOVIE REVIEW (7/1/92 - by Roger Ebert)
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