Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 1999. Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures. Screenplay by Robert Ramsey, Matthew Stone. Cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson. Produced by Brian Grazer, Eddie Murphy. Music by Wyclef Jean. Production Design by Dan Bishop. Costume Design by Lucy W. Corrigan. Film Editing by Jeffrey Wolf. Academy Awards 1999.
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence play two bootleggers who stumble across a dead body in a barn one fine evening and end up being convicted of the victim’s murder. Now in prison, they have to spend a lifetime working on a chain gang while also trying to avoid the love-hate relationship between them that spurs them on for many years. Murphy and Lawrence do a great job with the one-liners, and their performances get even more delightful as the story progresses and they enter their twilight years (thanks also to some very impressive makeup work by Rick Baker). You’ll find yourself laughing plenty of times, but director Ted Demme is absolutely confused as to what kind of comedy he’s making. On the one hand, their situation isn’t very believable: the life they lead in this particular prison is ridiculously easy, and for a prison colony in the South it features some very not-bigoted sheriffs (the only people to utter the racial epithets are the black characters). On the other hand, Demme doesn’t seem determined to make a believable situation comedy either, because there are plenty of fart jokes and lowbrow pranks. You’re left, eventually, with an amazingly confused but often enjoyable comedy that you can either take or leave for whatever it’s worth to you.