Friday, August 25, 2000

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps / *1/2 (2000)

The utilization of bathroom humor is so relentlessly exercised in “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” that it’s a wonder the movie doesn’t just flush itself down the toilet. Not that it would be missed or anything; with bad taste at a crest in the mainstream market (refer to “Scary Movie” for the latest), one can easily look somewhere else for a more satisfying use of gross-out comedy and usually come out ahead. Something like “Road Trip,” for instance, matches its repugnance with a sense of humor, while films like this assume that the inclusion of bad taste alone immediately equates with genuine laughs. Audiences will undoubtedly stare at this Eddie Murphy misfire with dismay and anger in their eyes; it is one of the most tone-deaf, sloppy excuses for comedy seen so far this year.

I am hardly astounded at the outcome, mind you, since I was never a fan of the original “Nutty Professor” film to begin with (which was actually a remake). Eddie Murphy isn’t the first actor to play multiple roles in the same film, but he may be one of the most effective, using a sense of diversity and distinction to separate each of his many personas’ characteristics. In fact, it might be safe to say that, when watching the picture, you often forget Murphy is taking on all of these roles. Only problem is, the brilliant illusion debilitates the attempt of slapstick, depleting the production of all its wit. “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” suffers from a similar setback, only with inverted results; the comedy is such an excursion in overkill that none of us care how many personas Murphy chooses to adopt.

The plot this time around sees Professor Sherman Klump, the gullible and big-hearted 400-pound scientist whom we got acquainted with in the previous picture, on the verge of marketing his newest discovery: a potion that, when taken, reverses the aging process for a certain amount of time. Wellman University jumps on this discovery, and soon Sherman’s life seems to be going in the right direction (now that he’s found a love interest in Professor Denise Gains, played here by Janet Jackson). But Sherman’s well-known alter-ego Buddy Love, finally separated from the charming lug, threatens the foundation of the discovery with a plot to steal the formula and take credit for it.

Where does all of this lead the plot? To the mouth of a river filled with inane one-liners and unfunny bathroom jokes (the most ghastly of them being one involving an experimental, larger-than-life hamster using his droppings as ammunition against a nearby crowd). This comes only weeks after the comedy charade that is “Scary Movie,” where characters spent so much time wallowing in clich├ęs of toilet and genitalia humor that laughing was not one of the audience’s options. “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” has similar prospects with its sense of humor, often retreating to familiarity for its perversion, and then trying to redeem itself by going over-the-top afterwards. The few laughs the movie actually succeeds in getting (granted, being small ones) die out too soon and are often accompanied by even worse jokes.

Director Peter Segal’s production is, nonetheless, a display of immense energy, from the characters to the camerawork, and even to the make-up (the artists seem to have fun making Murphy’s characters in latex look as ridiculous as possible). The supporting cast (if you can call it that) is well intentioned, and is highlighted by Janet Jackson, a terrific music artist, who gets points just for showing up. As the scrip’s only demand of her is to flaunt one of her most admirable qualities—her beautiful smile—she has fun simply observing the situations revolved around those in her life. Jackson will undoubtedly have a stable career in the future of movies (evidence being her solid performance in “Poetic Justice”), but “Nutty Professor II: The Klumps” is certainly not her ticket to great film roles.

Where does this place in comparison to its predecessor? In the same arena, I guess; even though it strives to achieve some good laughs, unlike the first film, the implausibility of the tone takes away from the obvious merit induced by Murphy’s many transformations (which was the most admirable aspect of the first picture). Bottom line, both movies just don’t work, as they remind us of how some filmmakers are afraid to let us have our cake and eat it too.

Written by DAVID KEYES

Comedy (US); 2000; Rated PG-13; 106 Minutes

Eddie Murphy: Professor Sherman Klump/Clesius "Papa" Klup/Youg Clesius Klump/Mama Klump/Ernie Klump/Grandma Klump/Buddy Love/Lance Perkins
Janet Jackson: Denise
Larry Miller: Dean Richmond
John Ales: Jason
Richard Gant: Denise's Father
Anna Maria Horsford: Denise's Mother

Produced by James D. Brubaker, Michael Ewing, Brian Grazer, Arlene Kehela, Karen Kehela, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Tom Shadyac and James Whitaker; Directed by Peter Segal; Screenwritten by Barry W. Blaustein, David Sheffield, Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz

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