Backing out of Oscars a big mistake by Eddie Murphy

OPINION - Though not explicitly stated, it's as if Murphy is giving a silent nod of approval to what Ratner had to say...

Eddie Murphy could have retired from showbiz after Vampire in Brooklyn and, although the story of his career would have ended on a less than desirable note, his body of work would have been enviable by any Hollywood standards and he would be considered one of the greatest and most successful funnymen to ever grace the big screen.

Click here to view Grio slideshow: Eddie Murphy’s top 10 film roles

Truth be told, the “comeback” part of his career is almost footnote worthy in consideration with his classic material, be it his breakout performances on Saturday Night Live, his stand-up genius in Delirious and Raw, or the comedic film excellence of Trading Places and Coming to America.

Yet and still, Murphy seemed poised for a second rebirth and enviable third act of his wildly entertaining career when he was tapped to host the 84th Academy Awards show to be held next year. Fans were hoping to see a flashes of the old foul-mouthed Murphy, perhaps even draped in his famous red leather suit, as opposed to the family-friendly and hopelessly unfunny version of the 50-year old comedian that has appeared in disasters like Meet Dave and Imagine That.

I use the past tense here because as of yesterday (Nov. 9) Murphy stepped down from his Oscar hosting duties. This will likely prove to be career mistake the size of Norbit.

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It’s not simply a mistake because he pulled out of hosting the most prestigious awards show in the world, but because of the circumstances that led to his decision. It stems from the resignation of would-be producer Brett Ratner after coming under fire for his use of a homophobic slur during a Q&A session about his latest film Tower Heist (which also stars Murphy).

When asked if he rehearsed with the cast a lot, the director responded, “Rehearsal? What’s that? Rehearsal’s for f*gs.” It sadly isn’t a surprising choice of words, and Ratner is known in part for being sort of a sleaze, but nonetheless it’s highly offensive and a potentially volatile statement in this country’s current cultural climate. Resigning was the best thing Ratner could do in this situation.

Murphy didn’t have to, though, and he shouldn’t have. For one, as stated earlier, this is the most prestigious awards show in the world, and this opportunity isn’t likely to come his way again, given the way this whole incident has gone down. He certainly doesn’t need to host the Oscars to validate himself or his career, but it’s one of those gigs you just don’t say “no” to.

Apart from that, in aligning himself with Ratner after his use of homophobic slur, Murphy drudges up his own past of offensive remarks made at the expense of the LGBT community. Even if he did eventually apologize and express regret for his comments, this act of solidarity with Ratner could call into question the sincerity of that apology. He may want to call his friend Chris Rock for lessons on how to walk back support for a person in hot water. Earlier this year, when Tracy Morgan found himself under fire for his violently homophobic stand-up material, Rock originally took to Twitter to express his support for Morgan, but after gaining a full understanding of the nature of Morgan’s remarks, blogged a retraction and condemnation of those very harsh words.

It’s not just bad business but also morally tragic to support, whether vocally or through your actions, such reprehensible comments. Though not explicitly stated, it’s as if Murphy is giving a silent nod of approval to what Ratner had to say.

Further, Murphy can’t even defend this decision by pointing to Ratner’s talent as a director and his artistic track record. Not that it would have made it right, but it would have made more sense to stand by his side if there was some great genius there that would be missing in helping Murphy to optimize his performance.

But this is Brett Ratner we’re talking about. The Oscars brought him in to hopefully liven up their broadcast and attract younger viewers as their ratings slip, but that’s a clear signal that they have never seen X-Men: The Last Stand.

Ratner simply isn’t a very good director. So why Murphy is attached to him is dumbfounding. This isn’t John Landis we’re discussing. Money Talks was no Blues Brothers and Tower Heist is not Trading Places (it’s also under-performing at the box office, getting beaten in ticket sales by a computer-animated cat wearing boots).

A recent Rolling Stone magazine cover story gave us a rare glimpse at the man behind the megastar that is Eddie Murphy, and it looked as if, even as a “semiretired gentleman of leisure,” he was saying to Hollywood that he was ready to come back and produce some more cutting edge material that would leave us all in stitches.

But now, he appears to be content hanging out with his talentless and tactless new friends. If that’s going to be case, quitting after Vampire in Brooklyn is looking more and more like it would have been his best career move.