Directed by Reginald Hudlin. Starring Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, David Alan Grier, Martin Lawrence, Grace Jones, Geoffrey Holder, Eartha Kitt. (1992, R, 118 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 3, 1992
“Wanted: a new identity -- one that's suave and debonair, well-mannered yet macho, sex-driven but respectful toward women. Something on the order of Billy Dee Williams or Cary Grant would be good. Sincerely, Eddie Murphy.” With Boomerang it's clear that Murphy's trying to reinvent his image. Instead of the cocky, streetwise jokester with the braying laugh that he earned a fortune playing in his earlier films, Murphy this time tries to reposition himself as a romantic leading man -- a sensitive guy, if you will. In Boomerang, Murphy plays Marcus, a brilliant marketing chief at a New York City cosmetics firm. He's a promiscuous Casanova who loves 'em and leaves 'em until, through role reversal, he discovers the true meaning of love. (Hint: It involves more than one organ.) Givens is cast as the heartless Dragon Lady, Jacqueline, who serves Murphy his comeuppance by giving him a dose of his own medicine. His equal in business and the bedroom (on the business front, we'll have to take the movie's word for it, but as for the bedroom, we're given ample opportunity to witness things for ourselves), Marcus falls for her hard only to be humbled by her emotional abuse. She wants a boy toy, he wants a wife. Then there's Angela (Berry), the good girl, the friend, the other woman. The biggest audience response in Boomerang comes at the point where Angela slaps Marcus while he tries to rationalize away his dalliances. The other crowd-pleasing, comeuppance moment occurs when Jacqueline dons her coat to leave after a quick roll in the hay as Marcus whimpers, “Call me,” from underneath the sheets as he notices the cash she left him on the nightstand. According to the film's co-producer Warrington Hudlin (brother Reginald Hudlin directed Boomerang and together they also made the original House Party), Boomerang's role reversals are designed to be “illuminating” for the men and “cathartic” for the women. It's not. It's not even funny. Nor does it contain half the wit or charm as the old Doris Day sex comedies it so resembles. In fact, it's downright mean-spirited toward women, as is Murphy's wont. Even in role reversals, women are the bad guys in Murphy's world. This time they play the cads and demean the opposite sex. Or, like Eartha Kitt, their portrayal of a vain and sexually ravenous old titular head of Lady Elouise Cosmetics earns them the newest berth in the Humiliation Hall of Fame ranks. (Anyone who'd depict Kitt as someone to sneer at in bed is a fool, nothing less). And then, of course, there's the case of Grace Jones... but don't even get me started. What goes around, comes around is the movie's message. The problem with such thinking is that it traps us in an endless boomerang cycle in which instead of progressing, we just keep repeating the same screwed-up patterns of the past.