Armed with a talented pair of stars, Showtime sets out to spoof two concepts that seemed to be coming out of the woodwork during its production: the buddy cop flick and reality television.
Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) is a veteran police officer who plays things by the book. When his temper leads to a minor public relations scuffle, his department teams up with a TV production studio to do a hip, reality-based cop show to repair their image. Much to his aggravation, Mitch is paired with Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy), an attention starved cop who really wants to be an actor. Of course, the two make a natural odd couple, and their unlikely partnership soon becomes a national hit as primetime television.
Showtime is generally funny, though it's fairly paint-by-numbers and unimaginative. In fact, you get the impression that the pitch process for this movie probably had striking similarities to the on-screen creation of Mitch and Trey's reality program. The biggest problem with this movie is that it eventually devolves into the standard buddy cop flick it sets out to spoof, which is quite a shame since it starts off by unabashedly lampooning the tired genre. An early scene with a police chief busting balls when a "loose cannon destroys half a city block" is particularly good at pointing out cliches.
By the end, though, Showtime starts to play cheaply on emotions and show that Mitch and Trey really do make a good team despite their differences. (Hmmm...now where have I heard that one before?) Still, De Niro and Murphy do a good job at bringing their respective brands of comedy to the screen.
But the comedic highlight of the entire film is a cameo by William Shatner in which the sci-fi captain turned Priceline spokesman plays himself. As the director of Showtime's television series within a movie, he sets out to dispense thespian advice to Mitch and Trey, prompting both cops to even refer to him as T. J. Hooker. Ultimately, there's something unnervingly funny and ironic about Captain Kirk giving acting directions to Robert De Niro.
The rest of the supporting characters are forgettable. The studio suit behind Showtime (Rene Russo) is dull, and her predictable relationship with Mitch lacks any chemistry whatsoever. The evil villain Mitch and Trey have to take down is too much of a European queen and is about as scary as a chihuahua in an Armani suit.
Eddie Murphy said that the sole purpose of this movie is to entertain the hell out of people, and it does that--more or less. Both he and De Niro are as amusing as you would expect them to be. Just don't hold your breath for anything groundbreaking...or remotely new, for that matter.
Rating: 6 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)