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The Adventures Of Pluto Nash

The Adventures Of Pluto Nash comes to theaters with at least two strikes against it: It's been languishing in a studio vault for two years, gathering dust and bad press, and it wasn't screened for critics, which is never a good sign. Add a title and publicity campaign to rival Howard The Duck for sheer wrongheadedness, and the result is a film likely to be dead on arrival. Only the film's supporting cast—which includes such dependable character actors as Pam Grier, John Cleese, Burt Young, Jay Mohr, Joe Pantoliano, and Luis Guzmán—provides the faintest glimmer of hope. The film itself makes that glimmer vanish. A waste of talent and money, Pluto Nash seems convinced that simply sticking Eddie Murphy in outer space with expensive special effects will produce laughs. It expects the high-concept idea to do the film's work for it, and when it doesn't, all that's left is a headache-inducing mess without direction or purpose. In perhaps his most tepid performance to date, Murphy stars as a former space smuggler and ex-con who now owns a popular nightclub on the moon. But his happy life is upset when bad guys try to buy him out or, failing that, kill him. Listlessly directed by Ron Underwood, Pluto Nash is set in a lunar Vegas that suggests a number of promising comic possibilities, all of them studiously avoided in favor of mild gags delivered at a leisurely pace. A trash-heap of secondhand ideas and characters, Pluto Nash doesn't even rip off good movies, choosing instead to plunder the questionable likes of Heartbeeps and Knight Rider. The flamboyantly ugly production design is bound to induce Battlefield Earth flashbacks, but that film at least boasted too much ambition: The aggressively mild Pluto Nash seems to take its cues from its star's sleepy lead performance. Long gone are the days when Murphy could coast on charisma alone, and here, he'd need to kick it up a notch just to qualify as phoning it in. Pluto Nash has another connection to Battlefield Earth: Like fellow icon John Travolta, Murphy has a knack for spectacular comebacks. Unfortunately, he also shares Travolta's tendency to choose projects that make those comebacks necessary.


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