Monday, February 22, 2010

When I Grow Up I Wanna Be: MARRRRRRCUS

by Odienator
(for all posts, click here)

"I got my best Mack Daddy Vibe going here!"

Marcus is a ho. As he walks into Lady Eloise Cosmetics company, he is met by a bevy of sexy, Black women. They all know his name, and a lot more than that, as he has slept with all these women at some point in his tenure. Marcus’ way with the ladies is the stuff of legend; mailroom guy Boney T (Chris Rock) idolizes not only Marcus’ high paying job but his whorishness. When Marcus makes his way to his office, he tells his secretary to send flowers to three or four different women. “With the usual note?” she asks. His secretary is probably one of two women Marcus hasn’t gone to bed with, along with the Lady Eloise whose company has taken over his. But the movie’s still young.

Boomerang attempts to cast Eddie Murphy as a ladies’ man. Perhaps it’s an apology for his misogynist piece of shit Harlem Nights, which would have been unwatchable had it not been for Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Sunshine and the costume department. That film, Coming to America, and this film form what I call Murphy’s Black Love trilogy. Black folks love these movies, and he definitely made them for us. After years of mainstream work, Murphy spent 1989-1992 connecting with the audience who loved Delirious and Raw. Coming to America scribes David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein put Eddie in what would be an old-fashioned office comedy if It weren’t so damn filthy. After greeting the ladies and chatting with Boney T, Murphy, and the audience, are visually assaulted by the second nastiest cosmetics commercial ever made.

Nelson (Tony winning choreographer and 7-Up man, Geoffrey Holder) makes commercials for Marcus’ marketing department. His latest commercial shows just what a pervert Nelson is. Just look at these shots and tell me if you know what this commercial is advertising.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was a commercial for Bob Guccione’s Carvel store, where they sell Pussy Cookie instead of Cookie Puss. “It’s a little too overt,” says Marcus. “I like the orange, but you gotta get rid of the banana and the cherries.” He then tells Nelson he’s nasty, which is the pot calling the kettle African-American. It’s also foreshadowing. Nelson will be back later, with the nastiest cosmetics commercial ever made.

Marcus has two best buddies with whom he hangs out with after work. Tyler (Martin Lawrence) is a horny bachelor living vicariously through Marcus while pointing out that everything in the world is a conspiracy against Black people. Gerard (David Alan Grier) is the Ralph Bellamy of Boomerang, and not the Ralph Bellamy from Trading Places, either. Bellamy made his career back in the day by playing the sidekick who never got the girl. Gerard is a nice guy, but kinda nerdy and somewhat clueless around women. Gerard’s tendency to be high strung is a direct result of his parents. I like how Boomerang shows that men aren’t much different from women in the way they construct their cliques. A hot woman will usually surround herself by friends who are either not as hot as she is or downright busted. Neither will be a threat to her pursuit of ding-a-ling when the ladies go out. Marcus’ friends are not bad looking, but they are no match for his player skills. Marcus lectures them about how he is so successful, but Gerard and Tyler will never be Marcus.

Boomerang’s original title (and a song on the excellent Boomerang soundtrack) was The Reversal of A Dog. Marcus is indeed a dog (bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay) and it’s Boomerang’s intention to neuter him. The guys in the audience can marvel at Marcus’ conquests, while the women can watch one of their brethren use Marcus’ own tricks against him. Marcus is such a dog that he pretends to have lost an imaginary one so he can bed dog-lover Christie. Christie is smoking hot and a little childish (after Marcus cooks her dinner, she says “Gold star for Marcus!”). She is also played by Harlem Nights’ Sunshine (Lela Rochon). In Nights, Ms. Rochon may have had, to quote Della, “pussy so good that if you threw it up in the air, it would turn into sunshine,” but in Boomerang, she has Hammer Time In Her Shoes. Marcus has a thing for women’s feet (so does Murphy—hell, he’s got a thing for men’s feet too) and after getting another gold star for nailing Christie, he notices that her tootsies are slightly less beat up than mine. Marcus is so freaked out that he slips out of bed and sneaks home.

The only difference between a slut and a stud is the double standard. This is the first movie I can remember where a man, rather than a woman, tries to screw his way to the top of the corporate ladder. When Lady Eloise takes over the company, she immediately sets her sights on Marcus. His reputation precedes him, and Lady Eloise is into younger men. “Marrrrrrcus,” says Lady Eloise, in Eartha Kitt’s unmistakeable voice. “Meet me at Lavender Hill (her estate) tonight at 8.”

Marcus goes to Lavendar Hill, and Lady Eloise’s butler keeps looking at him and stifling laughter. After dinner, Lady E makes her move, and Eartha Kitt shows us that her body is still kinda banging despite her age. Marcus decides to grin and bear it, much like Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd. After Lady Eloise uses the Clapper to make the room pitch dark, Marcus says “can you make it a little darker?”

Afterwards, Marcus thinks the big promotion is his. He meets another hottie named Jacqueline (Robin Givens), and she’s far from impressed with his lines. She practically tells him off, and he follows her to the same floor he works on, telling her that he’s the new head of Marketing. That’s funny to Jacqueline, as this is her first day as the new head of marketing.

When Marcus tells Jacqueline that Lady Eloise promised him the job, Jacqueline tells him that Lady Eloise has no power. She’s just the face on the makeup. Marcus got played by a horny old lady! “You should see the way she throws herself at younger men,” laughs Jacqueline two seconds before Eartha Kitt shows up and whispers a line I still say to my friend Danny (his middle name is Marcus).

“Marrrrcus! I’m not wearing pan-TEES!”

Jacqueline looks at Marcus and starts laughing. “Just cuz a person ain’t got drawers on doesn’t mean I hit that!” he protests. Jacqueline rolls her eyes.

The stage is set. Marcus sees Jacqueline as a challenge to get into bed, a challenge made more potent by the fact she’s his boss. Meanwhile, Jacqueline’s assistant, Angela (Halle Berry) develops a crush on Marcus. Angela is supposed to be homely, and while Halle can look like a hot mess (see her crackhead in Jungle Fever), she’s far from that in this picture. While Jacqueline toys with Marcus, he sets Angela up with Gerard. They have a nice date, but it’s apparent there’s no chemistry between them. Gerard is just too goofy around women, and he’s not Marcus. Still, he and Angela become friends. Gerard would like it to be more, but remember, he’s the Ralph Bellamy of Boomerang.

Jacqueline is Marcus’ equal. She’s a player too, and she knows Marcus’ every move. Marcus invites her to his house, and she spends more time watching the Bulls game than tending to him. She also meets Marcus’ scorned neighbor Yvonne (Tisha Campbell, who once again shows up with Lawrence before their TV show), a crazed, curlers-in-hair stalker whom Marcus screwed and dumped. When Christie is at Marcus’, Yvonne holds up signs telling her to beware of Marcus. She actually talks to Jacqueline, who finds her amusing. Yvonne would find Marcus’ date amusing too: Jacqueline gives more love to Jordan than to him. In fact, she puts him off until they take a trip to New Orleans. As Marcus pretends to fiddle with his door key, Jacqueline calls him over to her room for some Woman on Top oochie-coochie-la-la-la.

Marcus’ nose is open. Jacqueline has him sprung so badly that, when she stands him up for a date, he overreacts. He calls the airport to see if her flight has landed, and when it has, he calls the cops to see if she’s been in an accident. This is insult added to injury—this date was scheduled three weeks after their first encounter by Jacqueline’s male secretary. When she shows up at his super fly pad (and it’s super), with a rose and an apology, Marcus is mad as hell. “That’s my move,” he says to her. “I spent 200 dollars on those tickets!” He stays mad until Jacqueline reveals that under her coat she’s imitating that Adina Howard song that goes “with my T-shirt and my panties on!” Well, she’s wearing a bra and panties, both of which quickly go bye-bye.

Director Reginald Hudlin’s sex scene choreography gives Robin Givens the dominant role. She’s on top and in control, and while I’ve seen a lot of men faking orgasms in R-rated movies, I’ve never seen one where, at the point of rapture, the director aims his camera at the guy’s feet. To make sure we get the point that Murphy has changed roles with his victims, Hudlin cuts to Murphy post-orgasmically sucking his thumb.

“I gotta call my mother,” he tells Jacqueline.

To make the transformation complete, Jacqueline leaves in the middle of the night. After Marcus looks at her with puppy dog eyes and says “call me,” he notices something on the nightstand.

The condom wrapper is a nice touch. Practice safe sex y'all!

Jacqueline and Marcus are now, at least in his mind, an item. Both of them, along with Angela, have to deal with the new face of Lady Eloise, Strange. Strange (pronounced “Stran-JAY”) is one scary bitch, and she has to be—she’s played by Grace Jones. The old face of Lady Eloise walked off with all her scenes, and the new face intends to go her one better. Jones, as you’d expect, busts into Boomerang being pulled in a chariot by four muscular White men, whom she is beating with a whip. Lady Eloise wasn’t wearing any panties; Strange takes hers off and rubs them in the face of the guy designing the perfume she’ll be advertising. “This is what sexy smells like!” she says. Somehow, Nelson winds up with these panties, which he tucks into his breast pocket.

Marcus beds Lady E, but is committed to Jacqueline by the time Strange comes along. At a restaurant, when Jacqueline excuses herself, Strange makes her move. She asks Marcus “when are we going to FUUUUUCK?” Marcus is astonished. “Jack-oo-leen says you know how to move your ahss!” Strange says matter of factly. When Marcus turns her down, Strange asks him how he could turn down her goodies. Except she calls it her “poosey,” out loud for all the diners to hear. She then shows her poosey to the universe. When Marcus asks her to stop saying the offending word, Jones makes it her mantra. “Poosey poosey poosey pooooosey!” she yells. “What are you, gay?!!” a flabbergasted Strange then asks. “Yes, I’m gay!” says Marcus. Strange’s gaydar is better than that. She starts pointing out gay people all over the restaurant, outing them. “You’re not gay, you just don’t want to fuck me!!!” she yells before leaving.

"Will you stop showing your damn pussy?!" asks Marcus as he shields it from view

I remember on an episode of Siskel & Ebert, Siskel (I think) thought this scene was disgusting. No disrespect to Gene, but I can’t look at Grace Jones without thinking of Strange’s pubic public outburst and laughing my ass off.

Jacqueline asks Marcus what he did to set Strange off, and he starts bitching her out for telling her girlfriends about his sexual technique. Never mind that he’s been talking to Gerard and Tyler about the women he’s been screwing since day one. The shoe is on the other foot now, and that shoe’s got Hammer Time in it. This leads to a break-up outside, and as Jacqueline says goodbye to Marcus (after cussing out Strange), Hudlin has the lights of the Empire State Building go out behind Marcus.

The next day, we get the inverse of the opening scene. All of Marcus’ conquests are paying attention to him, but for all the wrong reasons. Jacqueline is in their midst, and from their barely contained laughter, it’s apparent she’s been telling them what an emotional punk he has turned into. Marcus is such a wreck that he tells Nelson to make whatever kind of commercial he wants. This is a bad idea, and Marcus’ neglect in not screening it before the board sees it is an even worse idea. Nelson’s commercial is the stuff of nightmares. Strange appears on screen, screaming and hollering before pulling a bottle of her perfume out of that body part I typed six times a few paragraphs ago. Even Lady Eloise is disgusted. Jacqueline saves Marcus’ job, but she demands he take some time off.

Angela drags Marcus out of his funk, down to the school where she volunteers. Murphy’s interaction with the kids, especially a young girl he mimics behind her back (she stares at him, and I don’t think her reaction was scripted), is Cosbyesque. The school sets the stage for Marcus to wind up in Angela’s bed, much to the chagrin of Gerard.

But first, Gerard has to suffer an even bigger indignity: his parents come to dinner at Marcus’. Marcus and Gerard have been friends since childhood, and he’s well known and loved by Mr. and Mrs. Jackson (John Witherspoon and Bebe Drake). The Jackson paternal units exist to embarrass the socially concerned Gerard. First, Mrs. Jackson brings a big ass bucket of chitlins to the dinner. Then Mr. Jackson reveals just how much he loves mushroom print clothing. Then he and Mrs. J. embarrass Gerard by asking repeatedly if he and Angela are an item. After Mr. Jackson turns his antics on Marcus, he and Mrs. Jackson disappear to screw in Marcus’ bathroom. Marcus is so shocked, he grabs Gerard and hugs him in a show of compassion.

"You gots to co-ordinate!"

"So Marcus, I heard you was pussy whupped."

"You got to whip that pussy! BANG BANG BANG!!"

When Gerard finds out Marcus and Angela are an item, he’s very angry. When Angela, who is now in love with Marcus, finds out he has gotten back into bed with her boss—using a celebration of the commercial Angela created as the opportunity—she’s even angrier. She slaps him and says the name of a whiny ass Toni Braxton song: “Love should have brought you home last night!”

Now that Marcus has been humbled—he is without his girl and his best friend—Boomerang wants you to feel sorry for him. I can’t say I did. After all, I was and am still jealous of all the ass he got. Tyler uses dinner at his house to get Gerard and Marcus talking. Marcus tells Gerard he’s sorry, and that he loves him (a line I’m glad Marcus said to his ‘boy). As soon as they make up and hug, Hudlin employs a sneaky symbolic gesture: the Empire State Building lights up.

Boomerang has a happy ending, at least for Marcus. He gets his ‘boys back and for some self-defeating reason, Halle Berry goes back to him, though her last line of dialogue shows she has grown a spine since their breakup.

Murphy is very good here, convincing as the ladies’ man brought low by his own habits. He’s sexy, charming and funny early on, and vulnerable and pathetic when the chips are down. It’s a shameless performance, and probably Murphy’s most complex role. Like Richard Pryor, Murphy can act, but unlike Richard, Murphy falls victim to his own vanity projects way too much (see Norbit, how YOU doin’?). The Nutty Professor showed that the vulnerable side displayed here wasn’t a fluke, and Dreamgirls reminded us just how good Eddie can be as an actor, but Boomerang got there first. Even though Marcus gets made a fool of for a good chunk of Boomerang, I wouldn’t mind being him. I could live with being punked by someone as hot as Robin Givens if I could live in that bad ass apartment of his with Halle Berry.

Your homework assignment:

Get your best Mack Daddy Vibe Going

One of these men is President of BET



Anonymous said...

I like this post!! One of my favorite movies of all time that most underappreciated black love stories

odienator said...

I am not sure I'd classify this as a successful love story. I called Berry's return to Murphy "self-defeating," and I still believe it. She's a jackass for taking him back, and he even gets a mean (though funny as hell) joke at her expense as the last line of the movie.

Boomerang IS a successful comedy of office and sexual politics, and that's where my admiration of the film is.