The ‘forced together’ buddy-buddy movie (i.e. two people that hate each other and by the end are inseparable buddies) has always been one of the staple diets of filmmakers. We have had black-guy/white-guy, family-guy/on-the-edge-guy, grumpy-guy/cute-kid, tough-guy/tough-guys-mother, bounty-hunter/hunted, man/dog (allegedly platonic), even tough-gal/dinosaur (shame on you Whoopi Goldberg…. and no she was not the dinosaur - just) the list continues. So to come up with an original spin on this concept is futile, hence Showtime gives us the standard pairing but adds a third partner, the media as its hook.  

Our obsession with the media has been covered before by the willing and unwilling – Man Bites Dog, Natural Born Killers, The Truman Show, Ed:TV and so on. Showtime has the unwilling in the shape of Robert De Nero and the very willing Eddie Murphy stepping in front of the camera.  

The minor inconvenience of a plot has grizzly undercover cop Mitch Preston (De Nero carrying on with his new trend for comedies) meeting uniformed cop Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy) prior to a bust. Trey doesn’t realise that Mitch is a cop and is spied playing a shooting game in a local convenience store bragging and showboating. Mitch leaves and as he does, Trey notices that he has a gun tucked under his coat. Trey decides to follow and watches as Mitch and his partner walk into a warehouse to bust some drug/gun runners. Unfortunately Trey decides that he needs backup to bust all the crooks (real and under cover!) and calls it in. Before any help can arrive, a news helicopter arrives having picked up the call on their scanners. All hell breaks loose as the gunrunners think it’s a police helicopter. During the resultant chase, Mitch humiliatingly handcuffs Trey with his own cuffs live on air for interfering. Plus Mitch also shoots a cameraman’s TV camera for getting in his way.  

As a result, the TV Company decides that if they are allowed to have a reality ‘COPS’ style TV show staring Mitch (he has raw energy) they will not sue the Police Department. Mitch has no choice but to accept – complaining the whole time. Things get worse for him as Trey is named as his on-screen partner by the shows producer, Chase Renzi (played by Rene Russo - she was looking for a ‘funny’ minority type and Trey fits the bill as he’s desperate to be an actor too).  

In-between trying to track down gunrunners and starring in their own show, Mitch and Trey are shown how to be ‘TV cops’ by the daddy of all TV cops, TJ Hooker himself, William Shatner (err…played by William Shatner as himself unsurprisingly).  

So as the cops chase the bad guys, the cameras chase the cops and the public watches in awe. Mitch and Trey become household names and are treated more and more like celebrities (still unwillingly for Mitch) and are taken less and less seriously as policemen. With a new deadlier ‘super’ gun on the streets will the good guys manage to get the bad guys with the media world in tow?  

Showtime’s biggest problem is that the villains seem tacked on as an after thought, as the main focus is the relationship between Mitch, Trey and the camera. Pedro Damián plays the lead villain, Cesar Vargas – standard Euro-villain fare, but very much blander. Robert De Nero shows that the comedy streak he’s on is still running well and has some killer sarcastic lines. Eddie Murphy is a PG friendly version of himself and breezes through a role that he can do in his sleep. Its obvious that both actors improvised lines during filming, some work and some don’t. Rene Russo is eye candy really, but puts in a good performance. William Shatner is superb as William Shatner (I wonder if he did any of the extreme role preparations that De Nero is famed for? Perhaps lived as William Shatner for six weeks?), he spoofs himself up brilliantly and although he’s role is little more than an extended cameo, shows that he is a funny guy (should have played Captain Kirk like this years ago – sliding over the front of cars, or even better, The Starship Enterprise).  

Showtime isn’t as good as previous Eddie Murphy comedies or even recent Robert De Nero comedies, but it’s a harmless piece of fun. If you’re expecting another Axel Foley or Jack Byrnes (De Nero’s character in Meet The Parents) then you might be disappointed.  Both these actors are very capable at comedies, but Showtime never really lets them cut loose into full hilarity. The plot is quite weak, its just an excuse to put the two main characters together, and the laughs are not as fast as could be, but it does leave you chuckling contently in your seat. Giggles not guffaws 

SCORE 6/10