Eddie Murphy: Top Five / Bottom Five

Yikes! A look at the oeuvre of the former Saturday Night Live mainstay shows a sharp deterioration in his work of late. Perhaps Eddie Murphy's on a bit of an upswing, though, because while Imagine That bored even the children at the press screening I attended this past Saturday morning, it's nowhere near being among his worst cinematic outings.

TOP FIVE

1. Beverly Hills Cop: One of the great '80s flicks, Murphy's Detroit police officer in L.A. is still one of the best fish-out-of-water stories ever.

2. Coming to America: Murphy's African prince abroad in the U.S. is a charming hoot, and a surprisingly touching one, too.

3. Shrek: Could it be that a talking donkey named Donkey will be the legacy Murphy leaves for future generations? And would that be an entirely bad thing in a universe that also includes Norbit (see below)?

4. Dreamgirls: It's a small role for Murphy as R&B legend James "Thunder" Early, but it's enough to make you realize that few films even begin to hint at his full potential as a performer.

5. Bowfinger: As both Hollywood's biggest star and the star's dorky stand-in, Murphy shines in this movie-town satire as both sides of the gimme-fame-and-fortune coin.

BOTTOM FIVE

1. Daddy Day Care: Lest you harbored any notions that men could be competent parents, Murphy begs to differ.

2. Nutty Professor II: The Klumps: I blame Murphy and his multiple fat-suited characters in Nutty Professor I for giving Tyler Perry the idea for Madea, but Murphy trumped even himself in this reprehensible film, which is even more obscene and grotesque than its predecessor.

Norbit

3. Norbit: Multiply nominated for the 2007 Golden Raspberry Awards, it won three, all for Murphy, for Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Supporting Actress. (Yes, it's fat-suit time again.) And they are well deserved.

4. Meet Dave: Eddie Murphy is an Eddie Murphy-sized alien spaceship with teeny tiny alien people inside him. And that's the cleverest thing about it.

5. The Haunted Mansion: Murphy pulls his mugging shtick -- yeah, the one that's edging uncomfortably close to minstrelsy -- but this time, it's in a haunted house, even though one of Murphy's long-ago stand-up routines insisted that black people would never be as stupid as white people and actually hang around a haunted house.

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MaryAnn Johanson is not Gumby, dammit, at FlickFilosopher.com. (email me)