Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Nutty Professor

By the time Vampire In Brooklyn was released last year, the act of watching, let alone enjoying, an Eddie Murphy movie seemed a pastime of yore. But Murphy's Major Career Comeback assumes the form of a remake of Jerry Lewis' The Nutty Professor—a seemingly foolish choice for an image overhaul, but it does revive Murphy's dormant gifts for ad-libbing and wacky characterizations. The original was Lewis' uneasy attempt to combine his broad clowning with grandiose cinematic technique; Murphy's less ambitious but more sympathetic version comes closer to the mark, with spastic Julius Kelp replaced by sweet, shy, overweight Sherman Klump. While Kelp's formula transformed him into a thinly disguised Dean Martin parody, Klump's elixir turns him into Eddie Murphy, or at least the slick, machismo-soaked wiseass he usually portrays. (Is it a sly repudiation of past cinematic transgressions?) The film is otherwise plastic; the supporting players stink and a few too many fart jokes exist where wit belonged. But underneath his Rick Baker fat-suit and makeup, Murphy conveys a genuine sense of humility and hurt, and his turns as Klump's obese, lusty clan evoke his Saturday Night Live salad days.


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