The Distinguished Gentleman (1992) – Review

2 Stars

Thomas Jefferson Johnson (Eddie Murphy) is a florida con-man who runs for congress and miraculously wins, by way of name recognition. A long time congressman with a similar name suddenly dies during a tryst with his much younger female aide, Thomas Johnson sees his opportunity and runs on the promise of ‘trust the name you know’. After winning a seat in the U.S. Congress, Johnson realizes that this is the biggest con of all, and begins to enjoy the perks and power of his new position. Things get complicated when a power-line located in a playground area is linked to children’s cancer. Suddenly Johnson feels the uncontrollable urge to stand up and fight against his corrupt peers and their lobbyist financial backers.

Mr. Murphy goes to Washington is the obvious idea here, with the comedian (once again) as a smart-mouth, quick-witted, street wise con-man turned congressman with a heart of gold. It’s a decent premise and the casting of Eddie Murphy in the title role inspired by Jimmy Stewart’s turn in Mr. Smith goes to Washington, should have been a knockout. Instead, The Distinguished Gentleman is just average. That is especially disappointing because Murphy seems to be phoning in his performance for the majority of the picture, taking the opportunity to appear ultra manicured (whoa down on the eye-liner) and posing in finely tailored suits. But, every-so-often the untamable comedic spirit of the young star emerges and the dull movie is suddenly (if only momentarily) revitalized.

This is an unquestionably tamer version of Eddie Murphy. In the same year the provocative and raunchy Boomerang proved Murphy as a romantic leading man and capable of playing someone more intelligent than a cop or criminal. The Distinguished Gentleman gets bogged down and can’t retain any sense of momentum, regardless of the ‘zany’ supporting characters or the occasional hilarious impersonations that the extremely talented star pulls of with aplomb.

Director: Jonathan Lynn
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Lane Smith, Joe Don Baker