Eddie Murphy has had probably one of the most successful and unusual show business careers of all time. He was as big as anyone ever has been in when he was only 18, having made the cast of Saturday Night Live in the early 80’s and arguably was the only reason why the show survived. Soon after this, he made big movie hits like “48 Hours”, “Trading Places” and his biggest hit, “Beverly Hills Cop” which came out in 1984. Then after 1984 he never reached the level of those movies again. Most of his following movies were either bad or at most average and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise was ruined by “Beverly Hills Cop 3”, which is considered by most a pretty bad movie. Beverly Hills Cop 2 looks like it was made entirely for the money and did not have the quality or great humor from the first film. In 2006 Murphy made “Dream Girls” and was nominated for an Academy Award for the best supporting actor, which I thought he should have won. The rumor was he was very angry that he didn’t win. Since then he has not made that many movies and the ones he did make were just small parts, perhaps because he was disgusted with the movie business or his attempt to be a serious actor met up with some very serious opposition in Hollywood. Perhaps because of the confusion of being a father to no less than 9 children with 5 different women.
The movie Mr. Church is the first 100% serious role Murphy has ever done in his entire career. It’s a very small film in limited release and I was impressed with the acting in this film given the subject matter which has a lot to do with cancer and dying. The story is highly unusual. Murphy is hired as a cook to work for a single mother and her 10-year-old daughter for 6 months and he is being paid by some benefactor who is never introduced in this film or fully explained. The mother is dying of breast cancer and due to some miracle is able to live longer than her original six-month diagnosis. Over the course of the film, we find out that Mr. Church has a very bad childhood involving a very abusive father, which causes him to be very secretive and an alcoholic. There are several scenes where Murphy comes home very drunk and reenacts arguments with this father which are very well acted. Church is also a chain smoker and one serious flaw in this movie was the constant scenes where Murphy is smoking. Once again, I had to wonder if cigarette companies were involved producing in this movie in some way and I thought it was very unnecessary to show this much smoking in scene after scene. Hopefully one day all smoking in movies will be banned, but we are a long way from that day. At least in this movie, the end result of smoking and health are at some point revealed.
The daughter in this film is played very well by Britt Robinson, who has been in several quality movies lately, including in 2015 “The Longest Ride”, which is also reviewed in this blog. Her mother is played by
Natascha McElhone and her role is the most depressing part of the movie as she slowly dies over a period of 7 years of breast cancer. This is not a movie for anyone who recently lost someone to cancer or who has cancer themselves and the majority of this movie is depressing, but the acting and the story is good overall.
There are some rumors of Eddie Murphy being considered for an Academy Award for this movie and I am in agreement that he should at least receive a nomination. Murphy has finally proved that his career in movies should include more than just comedy roles and he should be considered for dramatic movies as well. I recommend this film, but be prepared for depressing moments.