The Nutty Professor Movie Review
Murphy went through hours and hours of make-up and fat suits to get into the role of Sherman Klump, the naive, good-hearted science professor who weighs somewhere in the vicinity of 350 to 400 pounds. He's content enough in this state, until he meets Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett Smith), a new science professor who is a long-time admirer of his work. Sherman's family (entirely played by Murphy) tells him he should be happy with his weight, but when a crowd-insulting comic (overplayed by Dave Chapelle) rips him to shreds in front of Carla, Sherman's on a mission. After taking a potion, Buddy Love is created: a skinnier, Atkins-fueled narcissist (also played by Murphy) who can charm anyone, including Dean Richmond (ever-funny Larry Miller), his boss, and Harlan Hartley (James Coburn), a benefactor who could save Klump's job and the college. Of course, it becomes a fight between Sherman (love) and Buddy (business) that brings the film to its inevitable conclusion.
The film is comedy by the books. It's a constant battle and study over the possibilities and fear of one's own body and director Tom Shadyac goes silly as all hell with the CGI and visual effects when Sherman turns into Buddy and vice versa. Shadyac also rests a lot of the film's humor (the plot has little new to add to Jerry Lewis's original) on Murphy. Thankfully, this is Murphy unleashed, with seven characters to release his manic, motor-mouth brand of humor. One can't help but go red with laughter when Papa Klump and Grandma Klump get into a fight, and Mama Klump is a fierce contender for his best performance on screen; a wild storm of both humor and heart that, at moments, actually grounds the film in some emotion.
The problem that comes up frequently is the lack of ingenuity and creativity in the film itself. Simply put, we know all these plot devices very well and, with the exception of Murphy, no one has the comic bravado to take it anywhere but to basic goofy playing. Murphy even falters by overdoing the megalomania of Buddy, playing it with full audacity and little restraint. There's no surprise in what Sherman decides or who Purty wants to be with, and even more so, Pinkett-Smith is never given enough screen time to allow us to really understand the differences between her attraction to Buddy and her attraction to Sherman.
However, it'd be a tad ridiculous to say the film doesn't still make me laugh, mainly do to the comic wonder that is the Klump family (I'll never get enough of the fart-fest that arises at dinner). Yet, there's little doubt that this was the beginning of the end for Mr. Murphy, with the notable exceptions of Bowfinger and his feisty, fantastic vocal work as Donkey in the Shrek movies. The transient charm of The Nutty Professor has given way to loads of simple, trite embarrassments, not least of which is its sequel Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. Just try to remember the Murphy of yesteryear, with Judge Reinhold and Arsenio Hall only too happy to cling to his coattails.