Oscar Watch: Mr. Church

It’s been nearly five years since comedic legend Eddie Murphy has appeared on the silver screen and the majority of his last few features have been underwhelming family box office duds. Imagine That, anyone? A Thousand Words?

Mr. Murphy goes for a change of pace this fall with the low-budget drama Mr. Church, opening September 16. Set in the 1970s, it stars Britt Robertson as a young girl who meets the title character (Murphy) and he finds ways to positively impact her life. Bruce Beresford, who made 1989’s Best Picture winner Driving Miss Daisy, directs.

You may recall that a decade ago, Murphy received accolades for another serious turn in Dreamgirls. That picture vaulted him as the favorite to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, but he came up empty-handed when Alan Arkin took the prize for Little Miss Sunshine.

Church screened at the TriBeca Film Festival this past spring. Early reviews are not encouraging as it stands at just 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. So why am I even bringing this title up for Oscar Watch? Even the negative notices praised the work of its star (effusively in some cases) and there could still be some lingering regret from Academy voters for not recognizing him in 2006. It’s likely that this film will come and go too fast to pick up traction for Murphy to get a Best Actor nod. Yet it’s not outside of the realm of possibility.

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