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The Nutty Professor

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Nutty Professor

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett Smith
Director: Tom Shadyac
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: June 1996
Genres: Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Athena Massey, James Coburn, Larry Miller, Dave Chappelle, John Ales

Review by Andrew Hicks
2½ stars out of 4

It's all been downhill for Eddie Murphy these past eight or nine years career-wise, and he's still trying to make a crowd- pleasing blockbuster to relaunch his 80's stardom. If the crowd I was with is any indication, Murphy has succeeded. God only knows if the rest of the country's audiences will feel the same way, but the packed mall crowd I saw THE NUTTY PROFESSOR with laughed so hard at the surface-level gags that I missed half the dialogue.

What do you say about a movie like this, where fart jokes abound and the word "ass" is used every couple minutes for laughter? That it's the kind of movie most of us could write in our sleep if given the premise, a lightweight and predictable comedy that the brainless masses laugh out loud at over and over. I'd almost have to lump myself in with the "brainless masses" demographic because I succumbed to a lot of the cheap laughs in THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, although not loud or long enough to drown out any dialogue.

Murphy plays Sherman Klump, a four-hundred pound college professor who has stumbled onto a formula that will change his molecular structure and turn him into a slim love god. So after the customary fat person sight gags (Murphy's stomach erasing the chalkboard as he writes, Murphy trying to sit in a chair, etc.) and the introduction of the love interest, a beautiful grad student (Jada Pinkett, looking ten times better here than in A LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME), Murphy drinks his potion and reaps the immediate benefits ("I can see my dick!").

I'm sure you've heard the expression that inside every fat person there's a skinny person waiting to get out. THE NUTTY PROFESSOR assumes that skinny person is a completely different alter-ego from the person's usual personality. At his correct body weight, Murphy becomes Buddy Love, a brash, over-confident loudmouth with sex on his mind. High testosterone levels are an apparent side effect of taking the potion, causing Murphy to act on his feelings for Pinkett.

This being a cut-rate sitcom, of course, he doesn't tell her that Love and Klump are one and the same, he pulls the old Clark Kent-Superman thing, having her know both personalities and having them talk about each other but never interact. And Pinkett doesn't have a clue as to what is going on because Murphy's voice is completely different as Love than Klump. His Love voice is much higher-pitched than Klump, making me wonder if we're supposed to think his voice lost weight too. Either way, the voice mystery is never explained, but you're probably not supposed to stop and think about any of this.

As another sitcom gimmick, Murphy's potion wears off after a certain amount of time, and always in the exact wrong place at the wrong time. That way people can stare as his lip suddenly swells to several times its size or his foot becomes twice as big because, besides being Murphy's comeback vehicle, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR also showcases some admirable special effects from Tom Baker, the man who turned Michael Jackson into a freak in the Thriller video (which took a lot of effort, believe me). But while Murphy was sitting in that makeup chair for five hours everyday, someone else should have been working on creating a decent, cliche-free script.

The movie continues with Pinkett trying to choose between Klump and Love, along with Klump having to pitch his idea to millionaire donor James Coburn (also in ERASER). We also get a couple of extended flatulence scenes with the Klump family, where Murphy plays five different overweight roles, and some TV inspiration from a Richard Simmons exercise clone (Murphy again).

The ending is as absurd and unbelievable as the rest and contradicts the movie's entire premise (that fat people would do anything to achieve an effortless weight loss), but if you can overlook all of that and just let yourself enjoy the decent amount of genuine laughs mixed in with the cheap ones, you might have a positive (but probably not nutty) experience with THE NUTTY PROFESSOR.

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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