Nutty Professor II: The Klumps

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps
Director: Peter Segal
Screenplay: Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield and Paul Weitz & Chris Weitz (story bySteve Oedekerk and Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield)
Stars: Eddie Murphy (Prof. Sherman Klump / Buddy Love / Papa Klump / Mama Klump /Grandma Klump / Ernie Klump), Janet Jackson (Denice Gains), Larry Miller (DeanRichmond), John Ales (Jason)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2000
Country: USA

Near the end of "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," there is a scene in which the titularcharacter, the lovable, overweight scientist Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy), is sitting on theedge of a fountain with his fiance, Denise (Janet Jackson). Through a number of plotcontrivances that are too strained to describe, Sherman has begun to lose his intelligence tothe point that he can barely speak.

It is an oddly affecting moment in the middle of a ramshackle movie that seems determined tobe as crude as possible at all costs. Perhaps this scene is affecting precisely because it is sodifferent in tone and sentiment from about all the scenes around it, but I would also like toargue that it is affecting because Eddie Murphy is a gifted actor who makes the scene work.

Murphy shot to stardom in the 1980s playing smart-asses such as Reggie Hammond, thehotshot con in "48 Hrs." (1982), and Axel Foley, the trash-talking Detroit detective whoshakes things up for the rich and powerful in "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984). This worked for awhile, but the effect began to wear thin (the dismal performance of "Beverly Hills Cop III" in1994 is testament to that). Murphy's best work since then has been when he played charactersthat differed from what most people assume to be the Murphy persona. Akeem, the princesearching for a bride in "Coming to America" (1988) was a step in the right direction, andMurphy may have found his true calling as Sherman Klump in "The Nutty Professor"(1996), a role that revitalized his career.

In that film and the sequel, Murphy plays not one, not two, not even three major roles. Heplays six. With the help of expert make-up artist Rick Baker (who won an Oscar for his workon the first film), Murphy disappears inside all the members of the Klump family, from thesweetly overenthusiastic Mama Klump, to grumpy Papa Klump, to the nearly toothless, butstill overly libidinal Grandma Klump. Each of the characters is a broad caricature, butMurphy manages to bring a hint of humanity to each of them (well, maybe with the exceptionof Grandma; she remains an almost uncomfortable amalgam of all the unspoken fear andrevulsion we have about getting old).

Using blue screens and digital effects, director Peter Segal ("Tommy Boy") is able to stagelong takes in which every Klump family member appears to be interacting with the othersseamlessly. It is, in fact, the best kind of special effect: the one that creates an effect withoutdrawing attention to itself. It becomes almost too easy to forget that one actor is playing everycharacter in a single scene.

Despite having so many characters, the majority of "Nutty Professor II" works because itmaintains Sherman's decency at the heart of the story. Sherman is a big nice guy, as sweetand utterly naive as he is overweight and clumsy. You can't help but like him.

When the story opens, he is romancing Denise, a fellow genetics professor, when his buriedalter ago, the rambunctious and obnoxious Buddy Love, begins to make his presence knownagain. Using a lot of pseudoscience about gene extraction, Sherman removes Buddy andallows him to become his own being (a sort of bizarre literalization of Freud's "return of therepressed"). But, in this process, Sherman begins to lose his intelligence. Meanwhile, Buddysteals Sherman's chemical discovery of a youth formula and almost ruins his career and hisrelationship with Denise in the process.

The plot, which is the bumbling concoction of four different screenwriters (including "Antz"scribes Paul and Chris Weitz), lurches back and forth constantly. There is no flow orrhythm, only broad setpieces that range from the expected Klump family dinner (this onetaking place at an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant) to a demonstration of the youthformula that goes terribly awry when a hamster grows to monstrous proportions andsexually assaults Sherman's nemesis, Dean Richmond (the always reliable Larry Miller).Flatulence and gross sexual pranks abound, and the writers even manage to work in a dreamsequence that is a parody of "Armageddon" (1998), "Star Wars" (1977), and "2001: ASpace Odyssey" (1968) all at the same time, while still managing to work in fart jokes.

"Nutty Professor II" would have been better if it had concentrated more on its subtitle: TheKlumps. Buddy Love was the weakest link in the original, and here he is even more gratingand less funny. Essentially, he is Eddie Murphy at his worst. The writers were sodesperate to give the character a new edge that they worked in a strained plot device whereBuddy's DNA gets mixed up with a dog, causing him to chase cats, fetch balls, and smellwhen other dogs are in heat.

Yet, even with Eddie Murphy at his worst, there is still enough room in the film for EddieMurphy at his best. Playing the Klumps--all of them--may be Murphy's greatestaccomplishment. Most actors are taxed to make one character interesting for an hour andforty-five minutes. Murphy does it with five. It's just too bad Buddy Love had to take upany screen time because he represents one dimension of Murphy's comic arsenal that couldstand to be retired.

©2000 James Kendrick

Overall Rating: (2.5)

James Kendrick

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