On the way back from three days at the parent-child Space Camp
with my son where he and I heard and saw what exemplifies the best in
America, the whole family stopped to see the remake of THE NUTTY
PROFESSOR. In quite a contrast, the construction of this movie is
symptomatic of much of the current degradation of our society.
In the remake, producers Brian Grazer and Russell Simmon manage to
transform a simple kids' comedy into the filthiest kids' movie I can
ever remember seeing. Certainly the show does have many funny parts,
and Eddie Murphy does demonstrates tremendous acting bandwidth,
nevertheless, as a picture marketed to youngsters and where the
audience is filled with kids under ten, this film exemplifies all that
is wrong in Hollywood today.
Don't misread me. I am a libertarian when it comes to films. If
produces want movies overflowing with bad language, that is a judgment
call they get to make. In some movies it works (PULP FICTION or
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS) and others it doesn't (GIRLS TOWN). However, in
shows where the trailers make it look like good humored fun for kids,
where the original movie was silly and innocent, where you know that a
large portion of the audience will be kids under 10 and where the
rating is PG-13, one should not expect a constant stream of filthy
language including crude sexual jokes about mothers.
A few years ago, this movie would certainly have gotten an R,
which would, of course, have decreased the box office take. To me this
movie speaks volumes about the state of the country. Adults should
have their shows, but why do we think children should be taught the B
and the N words? Do we want them to use them to their friends? Do we
want them to begin insulting each other with horrible sexual innuendoes
about each other's mothers?
The movie does have some good aspects and several big laughs,
although not near enough for an adult audience. The film opens with
enormously fat Professor Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) watching a
Richard Simmons look-alike doing an exercise show on television. The
film starts off quite promisingly. The professor is a brilliant, but
nerdy scientist. He accidentally released hundreds of hamsters around
the campus. My favorite small scene has one of them running up one
The plot by writers Barry Blaustein, Steve Oedekerk, Tom Shadyac,
and David Sheffield starts off to be a comedy with some serious
messages. The movie has the professor inventing a drug to become thin.
The messages surround how hard it is to get thin and how fat people are
stigmatized and humiliated by society. The first message is
trivialized, and the second is contradicted. The movie turns into a
diatribe against fat people regardless of the movie's tacked on and
moralistic ending. As a person who was fat for the first twenty years
of my life and who then lost one hundred pounds (to 135) and kept it
off for the last thirty, I am well aware of the importance of the
messages that this show only flirts with.
The show by director Tom Shadyac (ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE) soon
goes straight for the gutter. In an impressive acting demonstration by
Murphy we have him playing all of the roles of a large family with
obese members. In a horrible caricature, they are extremely gross with
a grandmother with a very foul mouth and a father who engages other
members of the family in seeing who can let off the most gas during
Other scenes in the movie, thank goodness, do work better. In a
nightmare scene, the professor sees himself on the operating table.
The doctors look on in horror as one shrieks, "He's getting fatter, and
we can't stop it!" Looking like he will explode at any moment he gets
out of the hospital only to become a GODZILLA sized creature who
terrorizes the city.
Like an alcoholic, the professor wakes one morning after a night
of binging to finally proclaim that is the last time. After that the
show becomes a fat and thin version of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.
The professor's alter ego is an obnoxious and self-centered
creature who calls him self Buddy Love. Of course, he is out to steal
the professor's girlfriend, Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett). Murphy, who
was so touching in COMING TO AMERICA, does his crude nightclub routine
though most of the show. That he can play seven roles is an amazing
testament to his inherent talents and to some great special make-up
effects by Rick Baker, but why couldn't the sweet Murphy come out when
the picture calls for it? Why?
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR runs 1:35. It is an R picture, but with an
MPAA rating of PG-13. Do not take kids under 13 to see the show, and I
would prefer to see teenagers be mature before going. Although we
tried to get him to leave, Jeffrey (age 7) refused. In the end he gave
the film a thumbs sideways. We developed a new family rule after the
film that whenever a parent says leave, there are no more negotiations.
We try to investigate PG-13 films, but were lolled by the innocent
trailers and the name of the picture to think this one would be okay.
I do not recommend this lame picture to any age group, and I give it *
1/2 for a few nice laughs and excellent special effects.
Copyright © 1996 Steve Rhodes