Eddie Murphy Raw review by Mike Long

Although I'm sure he's seen it several times, someone needs to make Dave Chappelle watch Eddie Murphy Raw again so he can what it's like when a comedian in his prime makes a wrong turn. This concert film perfectly captures a performer who is on top of the world going a bit too far.

Eddie Murphy Raw is a stand-up comic concert film which was filmed on Murphy's "Piece of My Mind" Tour (presumably in 1986 or 1987) at Madison Square Garden. The film was released some four years after Murphy's "Delirious" concert changed the face of stand-up. "Delirious" showed a comedian who was able to walk the fine line between incredibly raunchy material and genuinely universal comedy that anyone could relate to. Murphy portrayed a sly genius who seemed to hold to key to America's funny-bone. With Eddie Murphy Raw, the audience expected more of that same kind of comedy. And for the first 14 minutes of Eddie Murphy Raw (following an odd little skit showing Murphy as a child -- featuring Samuel L. Jackson) Murphy delivers on that implied promise. He reflects on the jokes from "Delirious" and how making fun of entertainers in that show had made it hard for him to travel. (This includes his classic "Jedi Mind Trick" joke.) He then relates a story of how Bill Cosby disapproves of his act by doing a brilliant Cosby impressions. (Apparently like the rest of us, Murphy's seen Bill Cosby Himself too many times.) These segments are self-indulgent, but funny nonetheless.

But, at the 20-minute mark, Eddie Murphy Raw takes a dark turn and Murphy begins to give his very misogynistic take on relationships. His overriding point is that as a celebrity, he could be the target of a woman who is only after his movie. That’s a valid point, but Murphy takes this idea to the extreme, painting women as vultures who have no feelings. Gone is the playful Eddie Murphy that we all love, having been replaced by a bitter man, who, to quote Jim Gaffigan, is “just up there preaching hate” for nearly 44 minutes. There are some funny lines in these segments, but overall there simply too filled with bile to be enjoyable. Murphy then shifts gears again to insult Italians, and then ends the show by doing an impersonation of his father. Now, he’d done his father in “Delirious” and while he portrayed the man as a raging alcoholic, there was a touch of clownishness to it. Not here. Murphy portrays his Dad as a threatening control-freak and only his botched Motown songs save this act from being a replay for middle of the film.

Nearly 20 years later, Eddie Murphy Raw is still just as shocking as it was at the time of its release. And when I say shocking, I mean in the sense of how mediocre and difficult to watch it is. Given the fact that Murphy is now the star of family films, it’s even more amazing to go back and watch this clearly bitter young man at work. And it should be noted that Murphy’s next film after Eddie Murphy Raw was the hit Coming to America, which I still consider some of his best work. But, following that, he had a string of six box-office disappointments, which wasn’t remedied until The Nutty Professor was released in 1996. As noted above, the first 14 minutes of Eddie Murphy Raw are funny, but the rest demonstrates how comedians should keep some feelings to themselves.

Eddie Murphy Raw laughs its way onto DVD courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is somewhat sharp, but not incredibly clear, as the film has a noticeable haze on it. There are multiple defects from the source material, including black and white spots on the image. The colors are OK, but the reds often bleed into other shades. The digital transfer has revealed flaws in the film itself, especially the numerous times that the movie goes out of focus. The DVD has a Dolby Surround audio track which provides clear dialogue from Murphy and a nice reproduction of the audience noise. There are no extra features on this DVD.

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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