Critics' Corner
Rita Kempley - Style section:
"An uneven but hilarious remake."

Kevin McManus - Weekend section: "This is good, seamless comedy."

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This film won an Oscar for Best Makeup

'The Nutty Professor'

Scene from this movie Eddie Murphy plays Sherman Klump, a 400-pound professor conducting DNA experiments in the hope of discovering a slimming drug. Though the drug has some unpleasant side effects, he gulps some down to win the heart of Carla, a pretty visiting professor who admires his work. The professor is transformed into his sinister (and thin) alter ego, Buddy Love, a crude egotist who Sherman must learn to live with. -- Rita Kempley
Rated PG-13
Director: Tom Shadyac
Cast: Eddie Murphy; Jada Pinkett; Larry Miller; David Chappelle; John Ales; James Coburn
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Filmographies: Eddie Murphy; Jada Pinkett;
James Coburn

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'The Nutty Professor': Formula for Success

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 28, 1996

Chastened by a string of box-office failures, Eddie Murphy makes a long-overdue transformation in "The Nutty Professor," an uneven but hilarious remake of Jerry Lewis's classic takeoff on "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Murphy, who plays seven characters, is at his finest in the title role of Professor Sherman Klump, a shy and jowly behemoth born into the world's most riotously dysfunctional family (all portrayed by Murphy). The cerebral Sherman has little in common with his relatives but fat cells. All the Klumps are lard-butts; it's in the genes.

The 400-pound professor is conducting DNA experiments in hopes of discovering a slimming drug. Though he has had impressive results with hamsters, the potion still causes some unpleasant side effects. The stuff is so rich in testosterone, it would be capable of turning even Mister Rogers into a macho skirt-chaser.

Even so, Sherman gulps some down to win the heart of Carla (winsome Jada Pinkett), a pretty visiting professor who admires his work. As in Lewis's film, the professor is transformed into his sinister alter ego, Buddy Love. In the 1963 comedy, Love was a suave but obnoxious singer who was curiously reminiscent of Lewis's former partner, Dean Martin. Murphy's Love, on the other hand, is the crude egotist that eventually sabotaged Murphy's own career. It's as if Murphy's making fun of the braying Eddie of several years ago.

Murphy owes much of his success to the amazing special-effects makeup by Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London"), but he brings a tenderness and dignity to the performance that he has never shown before. It even makes up for director and co-writer Tom Shadyac's over-reliance on smutty jokes. Like the original this movie can't decide whether it's a sentimental romance or a compendium of moronic skits.

The Nutty Professor is rated PG-13 for profanity, sexual situations and crude humor.

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Multiple Murphys: All 'Nutty'

By Kevin McManus
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 28, 1996

Only a few scenes into the uproarious "The Nutty Professor," you begin to lose count of Eddie Murphy.

Here he is -- sweet, klutzy, insecure and colossally obese -- as chemistry professor Sherman Klump. And there he is on Klump's TV screen as prancing, Caucasian exercise guru Lance Perkins. At the Klump family dinner table, Murphy simultaneously plays Papa, Mama, Grandma and crude brother Ernie.

Let's see, that's six characters, all hilariously portrayed. And a while later, we see Murphy number seven: Buddy Love.

Love, a thin man who's been trapped inside the 400-pound professor, emerges with a vengeance after Klump swigs a special DNA-restructuring potion. Love is handsome and quick-witted, lean and mean. Alas, he may be too mean, and Klump may have to get rid of him.

As directed by Tom Shadyac ("Ace Ventura, Pet Detective"), "The Nutty Professor" manages to make fatness funny -- screamingly funny at times -- even as it dramatizes the cruelty of people who ridicule the obese. Although Murphy plays Klump mostly for laughs, he doesn't dehumanize the character. One of the movie's best scenes, in fact, shows tears welling in Klump's eyes as he suffers the barbs of a nightclub comedian.

Another of Klump's very human traits is his susceptibility to the sort of love that makes a man hanker and pine and do nutty things.

The object of his affections is comely Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett), a fellow professor who seems open to romance with Klump despite his tubbiness and lack of confidence. Desperate to appear attractive to her, Klump tries dieting, strenuous workouts and even acupuncture treatments -- all to no avail. Then he ingests a chemical brew that previously has been used only on laboratory hamsters.

Presto -- the flab vanishes, the huge clothes droop . . . and a man called Love comes to life.

Svelte and zestful, Love sets out to seduce Purty and strike back at the nasty comedian, Reggie Warrington (Dave Chappelle). "Look at Reggie's gums and teeth," Love calls from his nightclub table. "It looks like his momma had an affair with Mr. Ed! I don't know whether to smile at him or kick a field goal!" The tirade picks up steam. Soon Love is onstage, verbally and then literally pummeling the comedian as the club audience howls.

While "The Nutty Professor" shows off Murphy's extraordinary comedic talents, its roster of stars must also include makeup man Rick Baker and visual effects supervisor Jon Farhat. Thanks to them, the scenes featuring multiple Murphys appear to be genuine interactions between different individuals -- none of them Murphy.

This is good, seamless comedy, even if it's not terribly sophisticated.

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (PG-13) -- Contains naughty language and smutty discussions.

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