*No one ever had a better start to their career than Eddie Murphy.
He’s like Hollywood’s version of Albert Pujols. There was no slow rise to the top – he was just there, a star from the minute he stepped on to the stage. He saved a floundering Saturday Night Live from cancellation and came out with three landmark performances – 48 Hours, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop – and two groundbreaking live comedy movies before the rest of the world could even blink.
Unlike Pujols, though, Eddie’s career has wavered. Albert hasn’t ever slumped; Eddie’s gone through two big ones. There was the mid-nineties string of bland, uninspired efforts like Vampire in Brooklyn, The Distinguished Gentleman and Boomerang, which was only stopped by the crowd-pleasing (but ultimately forgettable) Nutty Professor; that prompted a run of family and PG-13 films that provided solid work like Shrek, but eventually degenerated into crap like I Spy and Holy Man.
Then came Dreamgirls – and we all remembered the sheer talent that Murphy possesses. Watch it again, if only for Murphy’s astonishing performance as the fading and ultimately tragic James “Thunder” Early. It’s one of the towering supporting roles of the last few decades – sadly, unrewarded come Oscar time (and don’t think his run of movie bombs didn’t hurt him) as Alan Arkin from Little Miss Sunshine upset him. Just like that, Murphy was back…and then he made Norbit and Meet Dave, and he was right back in his rut.
Maybe it’s fate, then, that we see glimmers of another Eddie Murphy comeback as his baseball parallel, Pujols, is smashing balls halfway to Venus in the World Series. Tower Heist looks like a solid hit, and his Oscars gig offers a chance for hilarious redemption on the grandest stage. A return to Saturday Night Live, if only for a brief walk-on, would be a welcome cherry on top of what could be a great second act to one of Hollywood’s true roller-coaster careers.