Eddie Murphy is one of the most iconic comedians of all time. On SNL, he was one of the greatest cast members. He has been in some of the greatest comedies ever (Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hrs, Trading Places). His performance as Donkey in the Shrek franchise is legendary. Not only that, but he should arguably have an Oscar on his mantle for his performance in Dreamgirls. However, this feature is not about those gems. Eddie Murphy is uniquely talented in a very specific aspect of comedy. He is the king of playing multiple roles in a film. This isn’t just playing twins. Murphy has been able to flesh out entire separate characters and sometimes entire casts in many films. Here are Eddie Murphy’s five best multiple-performance films.
The Nutty professor (1996)
Eddie Murphy remade the classic Jerry Lewis comedy, The Nutty Professor in 1996. As Sherman Klump, Murphy plays the innocent, super-sweet scientist who always aims to please. As the chemically transformed Buddy Love, Murphy got to play the suave Lothario. He was essentially playing two sides of the same coin. But not only did he submit himself to the extreme makeup as Sherman, but he did so as four other members of the Klump family. His roles included Papa Klump, Mama Klump, Ernie Klump, and best of all, Grandma Klump. What’s more…Eddie Murphy doesn’t stop there. He even plays a Richard Simmons parody called Lance Perkins. Murphy really earned his paycheck with The Nutty Professor.
Meet Dave (2008)
The film tells the story of a spaceship that looks like Eddie Murphy in a white suit, as it crash lands at the Statue of Liberty. The spaceship is populated with tiny humanoid beings that include Eddie Murphy, Gabrielle Union, and Ed Helms. They don’t know the ways of the Human race and they have to try to make their spaceship act natural. Which they obviously fail at. Murphy plays the ship’s captain. It is a total straight man performance with very few jokes or physical humor. However, Murphy also portrays the spaceship, eventually monikered Dave. The physical acrobats and deadpan voice patterns are actually pretty funny.
As Norbit, Murphy is quiet, innocent, and victimized. He is as pitiful as any character Murphy has ever played. Then there is Rasputia. Covered in some of the most astonishing fat-suit makeup you have ever seen, Murphy commits wholeheartedly to play a sassy black woman who walks all over her husband. It is ridiculous and overblown. Eddie Murphy totally disappears behind Rasputia and he has to be given credit for that.
For the first time, in 1999, comic icons Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin teamed up in Frank Oz’s Bowfinger. This movie is brilliant. It tells the story of Bobby Bowfinger, a 50-year-old hack filmmaker who is going to give it one last go to get a film made. The film is entitled Chubby Rain (never mind why). He also decides that he wants the biggest star in the world, Kit Ramsey, to be in his film. How is Bowfinger going to pull that off? Just have his actors walk up to Ramsey on the street and say their lines. Some creative editing will bring the movie altogether. Eddie Murphy plays Kit Ramsey. On one level, he is a hot-headed egomaniac who is well aware of his super-stardom. When Kit Ramsey disappears, enter Jiff, Murphy’s other role. Jiff is a shy, innocent doofus who is more excited to get everyone coffee than he is about acting in a movie. The differences between Kit and Jiff really exhibit Eddie Murphy’s talents.
Coming to America (1988)
There are arguments that can be made that Coming to America is the very best Eddie Murphy movie of all time. Front and center, Eddie Murphy portrays Akeem, the crown prince of Zamunda. His servant sidekick is Semmi (Arsenio Hall). However, Murphy shows up in numerous hysterical roles. He is the loudmouth barber, the old man in the barbershop, and Randy Watson. He isn’t the only one pulling multiple role duty though. Arsenio Hall does an equally fantastic job.
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