Though he may have had a string of less-than-stellar outings, Eddie Murphy has still got it. You can actually draw a strange parallel between his character in The Nutty Professor and Murphy’s career of late. While Sherman Klump is a wonderful person trapped in a obese body, Murphy has been a phenomenal talent trapped in really bad scripts.
Murphy’s main character (he plays a total of six) is kindly professor Sherman Klump. Well-liked by his peers, Klump is researching how to adjust the DNA of obese mammals to make them thinner. Klump stumbles into grad student Carla Purdy (Jada Pinkett) and is smitten as Carla is beautiful enough to moonlight as a super model. Unfortunately, Sherman is fat enough to moonlight as a bomb shelter.
What’s admirable about Murphy’s performance is that I found myself enjoying him immensely as the 400-pound college professor. Instead of making a joke of Sherman’s size, Murphy gives a genuine insight the social difficulties that Sherman has to deal with. He’s obviously come a long way since the universally insulting Raw. The bulky bodysuit does nothing to hide his acting talent either – when a stand-up comic lays into Sherman about his weight in front of Carla, the scene is downright heart-wrenching and Murphy needed nothing more than a facial expression to create a serious lump in my throat.
After this humiliation, Sherman decides that to have Carla he must try out his own formula. Too bad for Klump the formula doesn’t just make him thinner, it changes his personality. More specifically, it increases his testosterone exponentially and turns him into the irritatingly handsome Buddy Love.
It’s here that the Eddie Murphy we know and love comes storming back. As Buddy, he’s annoying, he’s irritating, he’s…really, really funny. The scene where a dashing Buddy extracts his verbal revenge on the comedian who humiliated Sherman is worth the price of admission alone.
The remainder of the film deals with the conflicts of Sherman – who knows that Buddy is evil but finds it hard to risk the temptation – and Buddy, who wants to stay around and cooks up a plan to get rid of Sherman forever. The thinning effect is only temporary, so Murphy bounces between characters several times, invariably making a joke of Buddy Love’s randomly expanding body parts as the formula wears off.
Tucked into this romp is a subplot about a sniveling dean who wants Sherman to bring in millions of dollars of grant money with his formula. (The dean is played by the same actor who was the obsequious clothes salesman in Pretty Woman. Sniff, sniff…I smell typecasting.) And let’s not forget the two much-talked-about dinner-table sequences in which Murphy plays every member of Sherman’s family. Though somewhat vulgar, I had trouble hearing the dialogue over the laughter of the audience.
Other than the final scene which stretches the limit of credibility a bit, and the fact that there’s a social message hanging ominously over the film, I have nothing but praise for The Nutty Professor. Eddie Murphy is a force of one in this film and he makes a welcome return to the Eddie of ten years ago.