The Nutty Professor

on June 28, 1996 by Susan Lambert
   Eddie Murphy is back, and "bigger" than ever. This updated version of Jerry Lewis' 1962 masterpiece, "The Nutty Professor" is a successful turnabout for the talented comic whose biggest problem has been that his ego far outweighs his abilities. Audiences immediately sense that and rarely forgive. But here Murphy seems more than willing to submerge his confidence into a sympathetic, engaging character, even into a character who totally lacks self-assurance. Except for surprisingly soulful and expressive eyes, Murphy is unrecognizable as professor Sherman Klump, an overweight, socially inept scientist who develops a formula that can change a body's metabolism. He takes his own invention in an effort to change his love life, and what emerges is a slender, over-confident lothario alter ego: Buddy Love. Buddy is the old, obnoxious Eddie Murphy, squared and on speed.
   The movie is almost as schizophrenic as its lead character, alternating between sophisticated humor, emotionally touching moments and fart jokes. Despite the scatalogical humor and uneven tone, this Jekyll and Hyde story works. Murphy is most effective as the schlepping scientist and gives a most brilliant parody of his own persona as Buddy Love. There are some wry and perceptive scenes that expose the cruelty of bash-and-trash humor, but their effectiveness is undercut by the filmmakers' desire to get the laugh as well as the comment. The effects are impressive, and director Tom Shadyac ("Ace Ventura, Pet Detective") makes the outlandish seem real. It's just so pleasing that Murphy has cloaked his ego in an effective character and an engaging story this time. Maybe next time out he'll feel comfortable enough to give up a few fart scenes and a few more roles to other actors besides himself. Starring Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett and James Coburn. Directed by Tom Shadyac. Written by David Sheffield & Barry W. Blaustein and Tom Shadyac & Steve Oedekerk. Produced by Brian Grazer and Russell Simmons. A Universal release. Rated PG-13 for crude humor and sexual references. Running time: 96 min
Tags: Eddie Murphy, Jada Pinkett, James Coburn, Tom Shadyac, David Sheffield & Barry W. Blaustein and Tom Shadyac & Steve Oedekerk. Produced by Brian Grazer and Russell Simmons. A Universal, comedy, buddy, love, buddy love, klump

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