Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Retro Review: The Nutty Professor (1996), ITV2

1996
The Nutty Professor
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett Smith, Dave Chappelle, Larry Miller, John Ales
Genre: Fantasy Sci-Fi Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $270 million 

Plot: Grossly overweight, yet good-hearted professor Sherman Klump takes a special chemical that turns him into the slim but obnoxious Buddy Love






'Foul Language & Mean- Spirited Tone Ruins What Is Otherwise An Entertaining Comedy'

The Nutty Professor is the hit comedy from 1996 that with it being remade when one thinks about it, this could've been an ideal vehicle for any number of comedic actors being cast in the main and supporting roles. Jim Carrey, Robin Williams: comedic actors who have that ability to play multiple characters in makeup & prosthetics & putting on silly voices through improvisation. But alas, it was the role of Sherman Klump that eventually went to Eddie Murphy, who up until this point had a rather so- so career in the 1990s, which yo-yo'ed up and down, thus, averaging mixed reviews for the likes of Beverly Hills Cop 3, Boomerang, The Distinguished Gentleman and Another 48 Hrs to name. But two highlights to come out of this decade was Murphy's turns in The Nutty Professor and Bowfinger; with the latter alongside Steve Martin. Both films helped revived his career, and who else would end that slump, but in a character by the name of Klump. 

The 1996 remake is directed by Tom Shadyac, whose other works include the original Ace Ventura, Liar Liar and Patch Adams and is loosely based on Jerry Lewis's 1963 original version. The concept and original framework of that film have been retained. The main differences between this version and the original are the Klumps are Black, instead of White. It definitely has that African-American subtext, which should also appeal to Black audiences as well. That, and that it is a lot more in-yer-face and brash in its approach. 

Being frustrated at the lack of progress in losing weight, gentle giant 400lbs Sherman invents a potion to help him lose weight so he can attract the attentions of Carla. But the weight loss potion appears to have drawbacks and side effects. 

Eddie Murphy's multitude of roles he undertakes in prosthetics is a theme he has revisited from Coming to America and he applies it to maximum and amusing effect here. Seeing him ad-lib throughout, I can definitely see why Eddie noted Robin Williams as one of his major influences in his career; it's almost as if he has also taken a cue from him playing Mrs Doubtfire, and that dual role involved Robin having to take on two different characters too. Murphy gives his funniest - yet craziest comedic performance that was last seen in Beverly Hills Cop 1

As Sherman Klump, he is the mild- mannered, morbidly obese professor working at Wellman College; sweet, considerate, intelligent and who has a kind heart, whilst as Buddy Love, he was an arrogant & vain swine with a swagger, who is also on the verge of being very annoying when he wants to be. Buddy Love, much like with Bowfinger's Kit Ramsey is a loudmouth, unduly echoing some of Eddie's earlier stand-up routines and characters in Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America. Sherman is on the verge of a new cure to help combat obesity. He then bumps into Carla, the love interest in this film played by Jada Pinkett Smith and he develops a crush on her. 

The humour is silly, occasionally crude and low-brow typified by toilet humour, fart and flatulence gags, characters burping and belching, silly stuff like that, which gets old quickly; although one may argue the scene where Dave Chappelle's character cracks jokes about Sherman's weight on stage, is mean-spirited and not really that funny. The visual gags are rib-tickling amusing, if silly at times, but also it goes to lengths emphasising that it is not about what and how you look on the outside, but how you really feel on the inside that counts. & I think the film did vouch upon this aspect & follow through very well, if not so thoroughly. 

Also for all of the silliness, there are some heartfelt and touching moments of poignancy and subtlety where we feel sorry for Sherman. The Nutty Professor has a heart that doesn't stray too far to becoming sickeningly sentimental and plays to its strengths. Yet I feel that sometimes whilst the film tries to put a positive spin & be all light-hearted and encouraging in its message, all of that is thrown away and forgotten about, as it resorts to cursing and cheap fat jokes. 

Had The Nutty Professor relied on jokes about or attacking someone's race, gender or sexuality, disability then this film would've never been green lighted and approved. But then again we have Deuce Bigelow Male Gigalo sadly, which is guilty of the same, exact thing that this film does. 

The film combines Eddie's penchant for offbeat, fast-tracked and energetic comedy with that of the makeup, fatsuits and prosthetics and Shadyac's script. In this film, he is amusing and goes all out displaying the different personalities, he is at times witty but also brash. His comedy and humour harken back to '80s Eddie Murphy and as the equally believable, Sherman. His improv skills and being able to put on different voices showed the wonders of his talents. But like Robin Williams himself, he is not always the greatest choser of roles - and that sometimes is his biggest downfall. 

If Mrs Doubtfire and The Mask had a lovechild together, mixed with a bit of Flubber & Eddie Murphy's stand-up antics from Raw, then The Nutty Professor would be it; though I was surprised by some of the cursing in the film, as I'd assumed The Nutty Professor was still suitable for families. The B-word and N-word ruined it slightly, bordering on being (un) intentionally offensive, vulgar & distasteful. The poster itself makes it seem like it is a broad, family-friendly comedy. This should have been a broad family G-rated comedy, and though it is rated PG-13, it still contains language that is deemed to offend others. 

As for the supporting cast despite their efforts, it is Murphy who clearly runs the show, both as Sherman and Buddy Love and towers over Dave Chappelle, Jada Pinkett Smith amongst others. Their performances didn't really wow me, nor were they special. John Ales of whom plays Jason, however, wasn't too bad. 

The Nutty Professor is another one of those films that I used to enjoy a great deal as a teenager growing up in the 1990s; at that time, I thought it was hysterical and I never really contemplated about anything else besides that it would make me laugh. It never occurred to me the cruel context of some of the terms, words that were being used and how hurtful they can be towards people, who have weight issues or lack self-esteem and confidence. Rewatching it now, there are things I've noticed about it as an adult today that I'd never realised before that are rather offensive and mean-spirited, that I don't find it funny as I used to. Yes, it's a comedy and it is supposed to be for a laugh. Yet calling a woman a b**** or using the N word, is nothing to be made fun of. 

The term 'Nutty' needn't be obnoxious; but unfortunately, that is what this film is alluding to through its tone, sadly. Though thankfully, Sherman's big- hearted nature just about manages to prevent this film from plumbing down to even more lowly and venomous depths. 

Perhaps, this version of The Nutty Professor ought to be known as ''The 'Smutty' Professor''.







Final Verdict:

The sequels aren't as good as this offering; however, this version of The Nutty Professor is one of the more successful comedy remakes, Updating it for the 1990s, it makes it more relevant to the masses. Though it can get a little too absurd and unpleasant with some of the jokes, I for one can get by it or let it slide. 

As Sherman Klump or be it Buddy Love and playing Sherman's family members, this is Eddie Murphy's most outlandish comedic role and one that brings back memories from his Coming To AmericaRaw and Saturday Night Live days of the 1980s. 

The comedy itself is a hit -&- miss though a lot of it works, some of it is just downright immature and silly and with others through the use of derogatory terms such as the 'B' and 'N' words were not nice for me to hear. 

Henceforth, I'd take Boomerang and Bowfinger over this film. 

Eddie Murphy can be just as funny, even funnier when he isn't so mean as his character, Buddy Love. Alas, it's a shame therefore that it had to be that way and it's a shame that had it not been for some of the cursing, crude jibes towards obese people and mean tone it evokes, this would've been an even better film. 

Still, performance- wise, if one overlooks or puts aside the offensive and crass jokes and foul language, then they will see to it that The Nutty Professor is not a bad effort, as it still manages to be watchable. It's more of a showcase for Eddie Murphy's brand of in-yer-face comedy and less so for the film, which in itself, is ineptly scripted. 

Just about, anyway - and that is not by excusing its crude, petulant and unintentional discord this film evokes. 



*score last updated: 12 July, 2017*

Overall:




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