Eddie Murphy's rom-com Boomerang set the bar for Black films in the '90s. We need more like it.
I can’t believe Sunday will be the 20th anniversary of Boomerang! It seems like just yesterday I was sneaking to watch it on VHS before my mom came home from work. I was too young to catch it in theaters, and the R rating meant it was off-limits to my just-barely-teenage eyes. But my parents had watched it the night before, and from my bedroom I heard my mother howling with laughter the entire time. I had to see what the fuss was about.
Back then, I took the movie for granted. I didn’t know that seeing a big-budget quality film, a smart romantic comedy featuring an all-star cast of Black folk including Eddie Murphy, Robin Givens, Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, Grace Jones, Eartha Kitt, Lela Rochon and Tisha Campbell-Martin (and more), was some sort of rarity, or that it was even an era in filmmaking that would seem to come to an abrupt halt someday.
Boomerang, the story of cocksure and immature advertising exec who finally gets a taste of his own medicine, was Eddie Murphy’s first turn as a romantic lead, and the film’s success — $131 million at the box office — led the way for more Black rom-coms with ensemble casts, like Two Can Play That Game and The Best Man. Boomerang even led to the creation of the Marcus Graham Project, a Dallas-based organization named for Murphy’s character that is currently working to motivate young African Americans toward jobs in advertising.
The influence is no surprise. The film delivered hysterical scenarios, like Murphy checking the feet of his date (Lela Rochon) — that moment spawned a generation of men who were suddenly way too curious about pedicures and bunions. Let’s not forget the way “Lady Eloise” (Eartha Kitt) altered, for a while, the way everyone said “Marrrrcus,” and how even post-college guys were still opening their arms wide, offering their best Marcus Graham swag and calling it their Mack Daddy stance to get a laugh.
Boomerang’s one-liners are still in rotation. You can say, “Is that a nipple?” at any happy hour full of Black folk and everyone will know not just the movie it came from, but the scene, scenario and speaker. The same can be said for “You have to co-ordinate!” or a line repeated by too many women to wayward men, “Love shoulda brought your a-- home last night.”
It’s impossible to talk about how great Boomerang was and not mention the soundtrack — remember those? It included Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” which you couldn’t drive (or in my case, ride) anywhere without hearing. It broke Elvis Presley’s record when it stayed atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 13 weeks. The soundtrack also included another mega-hit: “Love Shoulda Brought You Home Last Night,” the first song by a then unknown singer, Toni Braxton.
We need more movies — and soundtracks — like Boomerang. Good laughs? Good music? And inspiring, too? I might just have to pop the DVD in this weekend to celebrate all that.
Happy 20th anniversary, Boomerang!
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk