'Showtime' is all hype - and no humor

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"Showtime," with Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy, is one of those drawing-board movies that seem designed more for the ad campaign than the silver screen.

Two big stars for the poster. A plot about reality TV and tough-talking cops. Scenes of raucous comedy bookended by shootouts, car chases, and grudging affection between the hard-boiled heroes. In short, something for everyone. It's showtime!

But there's many a slip between the marketing conference and the multiplex. The filmmakers were so busy cramming multiple selling points into their movie, they forgot to make individual scenes funny - or exciting, or touching, or anything else that might make the picture worth seeing.

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The heroes are a jaded Los Angeles policeman (De Niro) and a self-centered colleague (Murphy) who auditions for cop shows on his lunch hour. They become the unlikely stars of a reality-TV series cooked up by a producer (Rene Russo) with more ambition than integrity.

De Niro does his best to give an amiably understated performance while Murphy mugs and cavorts, and the supporting cast - Drena De Niro, T.J. Cross, Pedro Damian - works hard to help. But they can't get past the picture's muddled screenwriting and uninspired directing.

It may be showtime, but it won't be audience time once the effects of the aggressive ad campaign wear off.

• Rated PG-13; contains violence, vulgarity, and drugs.

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