Mild mannered Sherman Klump is a renowned geneticist. He's also very fat. His work in the development of a serum which will make people thin becomes more urgent when he falls for Carla, a teacher new to his college. Whilst she seems equally enamoured with Klump, he fears that his weight is a barrier to romance and decides to try out the DNA altering concoction on himself. It works, and Buddy Love, Klump's loud, brash and lithe alter-ego, is unleashed. The struggle between Sherman and Buddy for dominance leads to all manner of comedy mayhem.
As a remake of the classic Jerry Lewis film, this 1996 Eddie Murphy remake is a lot better than you might expect. As Klump and Buddy Love, Murphy excels in what might be one his best (several of his best?) roles. His portrayal of the cerebral professor, a cheerful, kind man unhappy in his body, is gentle, sympathetic and at times unexpectedly moving. Buddy provides him with a character closer to the bombastic performances we're used to, and it's hilarious.
But it's the introduction of Klump's family over a dinner date with Carla, delightfully played by Jada Pinckett Smith, which elevates the film with a scene of comedy perfection. With the aid of some incredible Oscar-winning make up from Rick Baker, playing his own father, brother, grandmother and, best of all, mother, Murphy is next to unrecognisable beneath mounds of latex but creates distinctly different and brilliantly realised characters. It's a technical miracle, the family interaction is seamless with Murphy playing most of the people around the dinner table, and it is joyously funny.
It's not the only stand out scene. A scene in a comedy club where the vile stand up picks on Klump with a series of fat jokes it turned on its head when Buddy returns and literally wipes the floor in a reminder of why Murphy was also one of the best stand-ups around.
Perhaps what surprises most is how touching it is. Buddy is such an endearing character and his weight is seen, ultimately, as a problem for other people, not his. It's fat Sherman who gets the girl, not 'sexy' Buddy. Acceptance of who you are is the message, and it works without being cloying.
Plus it has one of the best fart jokes ever put on screen and credit outtakes which will leave you in pain you'll laugh so hard.
Taking the best elements of the film and ratcheting them up a few notches without hanging much of a plot around them does not a great sequel make, so it's a shame that the 2000 follow up lacks the first film's charm. Smith is gone, and Janet Jackson is the new love interest, Carla who we cared about in the first film resigned to a line in the script describing her as 'just a friend.'
This is a showcase of Murphy's skill as an actor, for sure, with the entire film revolving around him playing Klump, Buddy and his entire family who, as the title suggests, feature throughout, but it's less involving and, consequently, not as funny.
there's no denying the brilliance of Murphy in what amounts to some of his
best ever performances across both films.
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: TOM SHADYAC / SCREENPLAY: DAVID SHEFFIELD / STARRING: EDDIE MURPHY, JADA PINKETT, JAMES COBURN, LARRY MILLER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
THE NUTTY PROFESSOR 2 / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: PETER SEGAL / SCREENPLAY: BARRY W. BLAUSTEIN, DAVID SHEFFIELD / STARRING: EDDIE MURPHY, JANET JACKSON, LARRY MILLER, JOHN ALES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW