If you like fat jokes and flatulence jokes, Eddie Murphy's remake of "The Nutty Professor" is for you. But if your sense of humor is capable of rising above the sophomoric mentality of modern comedy moviemakers, you may want to look elsewhere.
Even die-hard Eddie Murphy fans - and who else goes to his movies anymore? - will be disappointed by this one.
"The Nutty Professor" is a remake of Jerry Lewis' 1963 comedy - considered by critics and Lewis-philes to be his seminal work. In that film, Lewis played Julius Kelp, a shy, bucktoothed, squeaky-voiced science professor at a small college.
A spoof of "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde," the story has the perpetually picked-on Kelp inventing a formula that turns him into an arrogant, unlikable, self-centered, violent, chain-smoking, womanizing lounge lizard named Buddy Love. Young student Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens) is romanced by both personalities, and in the end, she helps Kelp gain self-confidence without the formula (though the film's final punchline has her keeping a couple of bottles on hand anyway).
In Murphy's version, he plays Sherman Klump, a shy, 400-pound science professor at a small college who creates a formula that turns him into a slimmed-down, buff, hyper, arrogant, unlikable, self-centered, violent, womanizing would-be-standup-comic named Buddy Love. A new chemistry teacher on staff, Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett), is romanced by both personalities, and she eventually helps Klump gain self-confidence without the formula.
But this setting and the central characters are all that remain of Lewis' film, and none of his gags are repeated.
The biggest difference, of course, is the overweight Klump - Murphy under tons of makeup. And the biggest surprise is that Murphy performs him so well. In fact, Klump is by far the warmest, most endearing character Murphy has ever played . . . and very Bill Cosby-like. (And in what seems to be a nod to another Lewis film, "The Family Jewels," Murphy plays a total of seven characters - including Klump's overbearing, overweight siblings and parents, his foul-mouthed grandmother and a Richard Simmons-type health guru. He plays each rather well, but the dialogue isn't funny and these coarse characters' scenes go on forever.)
Klump is the butt of nonstop jokes about his weight, some of them mildly amusing but most merely crass. The rest of the gags continually fall flat, and the incessant flatulence references that run through the picture - an obvious attempt to up the ante of Mel Brooks' infamous baked-beans sequence in "Blazing Saddles" - are tiresome and obnoxious.
Of course, considering the team Murphy assembled for this one, what did we expect? The crude humor on display is pretty much a trademark for people like writer-director Tom Shadyac ("Ace Ventura, Pet Detective") and his co-writers, Steve Oedekerk (writer-director of "Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls") and the team of David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein ("Police Academy II" and Murphy's "Boomerang").
Still, you have to give the film points for its technical expertise, as Rick Baker's makeup continues to grow in sophistication from film to film. Murphy is virtually unrecognizable under the layers of blubber-rubber for his various characters.
"The Nutty Professor" is, of course, a vanity piece, and it does serve notice that Murphy has lost none of his talent or ability. But it also demonstrates that he needs some guidance so he won't waste it on such lousy material.
"The Nutty Professor" is rated PG-13, rather tame, considering all the crude jokes. There is constant vulgarity, as well as violence, profanity and brief nudity.