Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.comDeadline had the news first Saturday night that caused Oscar dorks like us to spend the rest of the Labor Day weekend piecing together the broken shards of our blown minds: Eddie Murphy was the first choice of producer Brett Ratner -- Oscar producer Brett Ratner! That's still hilarious! -- to host the Academy Awards. It makes both more and less sense the more you think about it.
(Actually, Humor Mill had the news first, and then on Monday afternoon the Academy made it official that Murphy was their man, quickly putting the news on their home page.)
First, the obvious downsides, as eloquently elucidated by Stu VanAirsdale in Movieline yesterday. Murphy hasn't performed live onstage in about 25 years -- it really has been since "Raw" -- and he's notoriously cantankerous and difficult to work with. He worries he has "lost his edge." The only real experience he has with the Oscars is walking out of them after he lost. (In that case, maybe Bill Murray could host!) This whole thing sort of sounds like something Ratner came up with a party at his house, and by "party" we mean "Tuesday morning when they made everyone leave the pool so the guy whose name Brett doesn't know could clean it. (He'll tip him good, don't worry.)"
VanAirsdale is right about all those ... but for crying out loud, we're talking about Eddie Murphy here. Comparisons with the James Franco-Anne Hathaway fiasco are crazy; we are talking about one of the most gifted improvisational comedians of the last 30 years. (We still like to watch this every few years, which was made up on the spot when producers asked him to fill airtime mere seconds before cameras went live. "Needless to say, I'd wasn't afraid. I'd kill Stevie Wonder in a fight.") Fifty years old or not, "lost edge" or not, this is still Eddie Murphy: Even in his laziest, most base money-grab movies, there are moments when his once-in-a-generation talent flashes. He is too blessed by the gods for it not to.
We know we're not getting "Raw" from Eddie Murphy at the Oscars: This is the type of audience that actually gets offended when you make fun of Jude Law for being in too many movies. But for an Oscar viewer, it's zero risk. If Murphy flops, he just goes back to making "Norbit 2" and we all lament the lost potential of Eddie Murphy like we've been doing for 15 years, no harm, no foul. (And still go crazy when he occasionally tries every few years, like "Dreamgirls" or "Bowfinger.") And if Murphy scores, maybe his career kicks back again, and we start seeing some vintage Murphy, or maybe, possibly, he decides to try standup again and let us know what in the heck has been going on in his brain for the last 25 years. It's nothing but upside. It might be a disaster. But when in doubt, we'll bet on Murphy. Talent always wins out. And few have ever had more talent than Eddie Murphy. Make it happen, Eddie.
[Ed. note - This post has been updated to reflect the official AMPAS confirmation of the hosting news.]