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Based on the Jerry Lewis classic, The Nutty Professor is the story of Professor Sherman Klump, a grossly obese chemistry professor who creates a potion to make himself slim.
Let's be honest. Eddie Murphy hasn't made a funny movie in a very long time. For most of us, Jerry Lewis is the guy who hosts the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon every Labor Day, not the filmmaker who is a hailed as a comedic genius in France.
So it was with a bit of trepidation that I settled into the second row of a movie theater whose seats were so tightly packed that I could barely get my 160 pounds comfortably placed on the worn velveteen. It made me appreciate Sherman's prodigious problems all the more.
The Nutty Professor is one of the reasons I see films in real theaters with paying audiences. Had I seen this in a private screening room, I would have shuddered at the crudity of some of the jokes. Actually I was expecting quite a bit more, considering that The Nutty Professor is helmed by Tom Shadyac, director of the Cranky numbing Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. I suspect that it would have been just to damned quiet amidst the cushy chairs and half filled private rooms. In a real theater, filled to just about capacity, the house was rocking with laughter.
Director Shadyac gets most of the grotesque, and I do mean grotesque, visuals out of the way right up front as laboratory hamsters overrun the school campus where Klump works. Sherman is put on notice by the grumpiest of Deans (played with the usual joie de grump by TV's Larry Miller) and goes home to his parents house for dinner with the family. Fire up the movie whiz-bang technology for, in the dinner scene, Eddie Murphy tears the roof off the sucka.
As Grandma Klump, Eddie is an incredibly randy old lady, whose mind is definitely stuck about three feet below her neck. And whose mouth spits out every lewd thought or piece of history it can muster.
As his own brother bodybuilding brother Ernie, Eddie is convinced that is bulk is all man muscle just waiting to be dollopped upon any lady lucky enough to get next to him. Course, with his attitude, none ever seem to.
As Papa Klump, Eddie cuts more cheese than should be humanly possible at any given time. And he's damn proud of it.
As Mama Klump, Eddie is just so darn proud of her gorgeous little baby boy that she could just slap her chubby little palms together and burst with pride.
And as Professor Sherman Klump, Eddie Murphy delivers a bravura performance as a gem of a man stuck inside 400 pounds of fat. Sherman is kind, gentle, Southern accented and self-deprecating; many of the stereotypical things we've come to associate with fat people. The difference here is that, despite all the fat jokes, Murphy (the actor) makes it crystal clear that Sherman the character is wracked with pain and an enormous amount of self-loathing and hate because of his weight. When he is smitten by an incredibly lovely grad student, appropriately named Carly Purty ("pretty" in a southern accent, played by Jada Pinkett, he decides to do something about it.
Enter Buddy Love. With a swig of a genetic recombinant concoction, Sherman drops almost 300 pounds and one hairdo and becomes a lean, mean, dressed-with-flash-and-wanting-to-have-sex-every-minute-of-the-day would-be love machine. With testosterone levels revved to 60,000 percent above normal, this character is raging Id unleashed. He is loud. He is obnoxious. He revels in his abandon and gets more in one night than I've had in years. He's the kind of dude that the rest of us normal guys look at and think "what does she see in him?" He is everything that Sherman has suppressed in himself and delivers the kind of raw humor that Eddie Murphy did in Raw.
The trials of Sherman Klump, as it is, play out in the rest of the movie. Sherman versus Buddy. Sherman versus the Dean. Buddy and the Dean shmoozing for dollars, and Carla Purty in the middle of it all. Rick Baker's makeup effects are stunning and though the film goes morph crazy at its finale, a good time was had by all.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Nutty Professor, he would have paid . . .
Welcome back, Eddie.
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