Sunday, August 2, 2009

Eddie Murphy is a 'Vampire in Brooklyn'

Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Angela Bassett, Kadeem Hardison, and Allen Payne
Director: Wes Craven
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Maximillian (Murphy) is the last of a dying breed of vampires. He travels to New York City to woo the one woman who can become his undead bride and save his bloodline (Bassett). But he first has to overcome her devoted friend and valiant defender (Payne), and the incompetence of the local help (Hardison).

"Vampire in Brooklyn" is a horror/comedy that, despite its great cast and talented director barely manages to achieve the upper end of average. It's a great homage/send-up of the blacksploitation flicks from the 1970s, and the classic vampire movies of the 30s, 50s, and 60s, and it mixes its elements well... but it doesn't go quite far enough with either its humor or horror.

The cast, though, needs to be acknowledged. Murphy plays an excellent vampire, bringing charm and menace to every scene he's in--not to mention a fair amount of well-delivered laugh lines. Hardison, however, is the true comedic heart of the film. As Maximillian's slowly rotting undead henchman, he is funny and disgusting all at the same time. Bassett and Payne both make for great romantic figures--her with her troubled past and even more troubled destiny, and he with his unwavering devotion to her and his duty as a police officer. Every actor and every character in the film are perfect for the type of movie this is... it's just that there isn't enough "oomph" here.

I've been told there are some out there who believe this movie is racist, because of Hardison's dimwitted, lowlife, criminal character who becomes an even more repulsive undead creature. They also like to point to the various black criminals and all-around scum that Maximillian meets when he arrives in Brooklyn. Oh my God... the movie features black characters who are less than righteous, and who serve as comic relief!

What these critics seem to miss (or, more likely, willfully ignore) is that Bassett and Payne both present black characters who are high-achieving, highly intelligent career police detectives. And then there's Murphy's vampire character--the lead figure in our story.

So, if you've heard someone condemn this movie for its racists undertones, just write that person off as a moron whose love of Political Correctness has rotten his brain. If you've heard someone condemn "Vampire In Brooklyn" for its timid, middle-of-the-road script that seems to be striving for acceptance among polite society, you're dealing with someone who is closer to criticizing the movie's true flaws.

The bottom line is that Eddie Murphy and Wes Craven have both done films worse than "Vampire In Brooklyn". However, this is a movie that should have ratcheted up the comedy and/or horror aspects just a tad more to be truly good.

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