After Shanghai Noon, an outrageous Western-buddy movie that paired Jackie Chan with Owen Wilson performed admirably at the box office, director Tom Dey maintained the buddy formula for his next movie Showtime.
Showtime has a good cast. Eddie Murphy is proving himself in comic roles again after providing the voice of Donkey in Shrek and helping to revitalise Steve Martin's career in the under-rated Bowfinger. Robert De Niro, still a leading actor in Hollywood, has also recently turned in a very funny comic performance in Meet The Parents with Ben Stiller, and his eighties classic Midnight Run is hailed as one of the best cop-buddy movies of all time. Showtime classes itself as a satire, but essentially it is nothing more than a harmless, pedestrian comedy.
Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) has been a police officer for twenty years and is your atypical, no-nonsense hardman. All Mitch's wants is the chance to fulfil his job responsibilities without any outside hassle. However, whilst under pressure on a case, Mitch takes out his frustrations on a news cameraman by shooting at his camera. The cameraman's studio threaten to sue the department over Mitch's reckless actions, until producer Chase Renzi (Rene Russo) has a ratings-winning idea. The studio will drop the lawsuit if Mitch agrees to be the star of a reality TV show, and despite his reluctance his police chief forces him into it. However Mitch needs a partner for the show, and is strongly against being paired with Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy), a beat cop who has aspirations of becoming a famous actor. The relationship between the two starts off hostile, but soon Trey and Mitch grow to trust each other when the action heats up.
Mainstream comedy is starting to become very depressing in Hollywood, if such stars as Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro appear in boring efforts such as Showtime. The film is a blatant rip-off of the much superior The Hard Way with James Woods and Michael J. Fox, which seemed to know how to balance comedy with police action. Showtime on the other hand sees itself as a very smart satire poking fun at the buddy-buddy genre conventions and the current craze of reality TV shows. Despite its intentions, the film completely wastes any potential it had roughly a quarter of the way in, as the smart snipes are dropped in favour of routine action and tiresome jokes. Eddie Murphy tries his damnedest to lift the material, and Robert De Niro gives the aura he is merely on autopilot. There was a time when De Niro wouldn't have even considered reading the script for Showtime, let alone star in it. William Shatner turns up and does a fine supporting turn for a while, and Rene Russo is obviously struggling to land A-roles based on her performance in the film.
The director Tom Dey is clearly confused as to which direction to take the film, and is clearly lacking any sort of bravery. Rather than making the film a smart and witty observation of the obtrusiveness and falsity of reality TV, he gives the audience a seen-it-all-before comedy that will come and go in nanoseconds. The film's catch-phrase is It's Showtime!, and yet the goods failed to show.