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You want some ice cream: Eddie Murphy's comeback bid

October 26, 2011 |  7:11 pm

Eddie Murphy began what could be an epic return to glory--or maybe just an ephemeral return to the spotlight--with an appearance on "The Tonight Show with David Letterman" Tuesday night.

We'll see more of the actor in the coming months than we've seen in a decade. For the next few weeks he'll of course be promoting 'Tower Heist," in which he plays a small-time con man on the right side of justice. Then he'll be seen--in theaters--in the Brett Ratner extravaganza itself. That will be followed by the promotion for the Oscars, and the ceremony, early in 2012.

If all goes according to plan, we'll get yet another dose of the earring-and-mustache shortly after. Paramount anticipates a late-March release of "A Thousand Words," Murphy's comedy about a man who only has that number of words allotted for speech (also, incidentally, the number of words Eddie Murphy has spoken to the print media in the past decade) before he drops dead. It seems like the kind of high-concept movie a comic actor might have agreed to do in 2006, which stands to reason, as the film was shot back in 2007.

It remains to be seen whether "Tower Heist" has enough of the rubber-faced impersonations and silver-tongued charm that can restore Murphy to the level of popularity of the "Raw"-"48 Hours"-"Beverly Hills Cop" days, or even the "Norbit"-"Nutty Professor"-“Dr. Dolittle" days.

On Tuesday, at least, he played the charm game well, sticking the Oscars with a little jab (see video below; he said he wouldn't do any singing and dancing, though he notably neglected to say he wouldn't do any physical gags), and seeming generally easygoing.

Murphy still has the talent and charisma he did years ago, and in this era of '80s remakes and nostalgia-based goodwill, he seems like the kind of performer who can have a comeback if he wants to. But he doesn't seem to want to--he has only years-old development projects kicking around and doesn't seem in any rush to work. Which is the frustrating part, and somehow only makes a comeback seem more desirable.


Five improbably important questions raised by Tower Heist

Tower Heist, a clue to this year's Oscars?

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Eddie Murphy at the "Tower Heist" premiere. Credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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