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Boomerang Reviews

More interesting than entertaining and too long by far, BOOMERANG, which marks Eddie Murphy's return to the screen after a two-year hiatus, is a melancholy romantic comedy with a surprisingly bleak resolution for escapist summer fare. Marcus Graham (Murphy) is a womanizing marketing director for a cosmetics firm who enjoys ample success in the bedroom as well as the boardroom before being demoted after his company is taken over by a European company founded by batty Lady Eloise (Eartha Kitt). Forced to report to new, sexy, hard-driving lady boss Jacqueline (Robin Givens), Marcus also finds himself losing the power position in the bedroom, when he is seduced first by Lady Eloise and then by Jacqueline, who promptly makes Marcus's sexual prowess the talk among the gals around the water cooler at work. Among those getting the word is outrageous supermodel Strange (Grace Jones), who tries to make Marcus's sexual cooperation a precondition for her cooperation on the company's new marketing campaign. Jacqueline reads the contractual riot act to Strange, salvaging the kind of situation that Marcus used to be able to finesse without breaking a sweat. His self-esteem eroded to the point of disintegration, Marcus loses his confidence at work and risks catastrophe when he allows his avant-garde advertising director, Nelson (Geoffrey Holder), free rein over the first ad spots featuring Strange, with disastrous results. Taking pity on Marcus, creative assistant Angela (Halle Berry) steps in to help him save the ad campaign. Their relationship heats up outside the office as well, endangering Marcus's relationship with his best friend, Gerard (David Alan Grier), who had been dating Angela. Marcus then endangers his relationship with Angela, with whom he has fallen in love, by yielding to a one-night return engagement with Jacqueline. When the dust clears, Marcus patches things up with Angela, but the film actually ends with no peace in the battle of the sexes as Marcus and his two friends, Gerard and Tyler (Martin Lawrence), celebrate their male bond atop a Manhattan rooftop. In their first outing following the critical and commercial success of the low-budget HOUSE PARTY, director Reginald Hudlin and producer Warrington Hudlin show themselves fully up to the demands of shepherding an all-star cast through an expensive production--maybe too much so. If anything, BOOMERANG is too controlled for its own good. The Hudlins' work here falls into the tradition of Lubitsch and Wilder, neither noted for wild spontaneity but both creators of sophisticated romantic romps with a darkness not too far beneath the surface gaiety. Here, the relationship between sex and power is handled with a frankness and directness rarely seen in American movies since Wilder's THE APARTMENT. Marcus makes the mistake of believing that his power over women comes from his personal charm, when it actually stems from the same place it does for most men--their position in society. Once he loses that position, his egoism is such that he doesn't at first realize how much he's lost. When Lady Eloise and Jacqueline use him, he persists in believing that he is using them--until his run-in with Strange lets him know otherwise and forces him to realize how far he's fallen. Still, the lesson doesn't quite take when he later undervalues his relationship with Angela by going back to his old ways. Despite the nominally upbeat resolution of having Marcus reconcile with Angela, the Hudlins end the film with Marcus and his friends alone, still failing to comprehend the implications of women assuming socially powerful roles. Unfortunately, BOOMERANG's provocative premise remains largely undeveloped in the screenplay by regular Murphy collaborators Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, working from a story by Murphy himself. In his choice of material, Murphy seems to favor stories that have a fable-like quality to them. (How else to explain THE GOLDEN CHILD?) Sharing the same writers, BOOMERANG most resembles COMING TO AMERICA in attempting to make a statement on relations between the sexes within a fantasy framework. Directed with considerably more charm and grace than the earlier film, BOOMERANG suggests how such an approach could bring the romantic comedy into modern times, with its all-black casting being only the most visible of its innovations. But suggesting isn't the same thing as accomplishing. (Adult situations.)