Murphy stars as Dr. Sherman Klump, a kind, "calorically challenged" genetics professor who longs to shed his 400-pound frame in order to win the heart of beautiful Jada Pinkett. So, with one swig of his experimental fat-reducing serum, Sherman becomes "Buddy Love," a fast-talking, pumped-up, plumped down Don Juan. Can Sherman stop his buff alter ego before it's too late, or will Buddy have the last laugh?
Meet Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy), perhaps the nicest science professor there ever was. Unfortunately for Sherman, he also suffers from low self-esteem due to the fact that he's what might be called "pleasantly plump." Okay -- he's fat. But then one day, while conducting experiments on his beloved stable of pet hamsters, he mistakenly concocts a potion that allows him to transform his body, shedding those unwanted pounds in an instant. Suddenly, the "real" Sherman is unleashed in the form of a new persona -- Buddy Love (also Eddie Murphy). He is confident, even cocky, and can now finally woo the woman he secretly loves, fellow professor Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett Smith). But, of course, there is a catch -- the potion only lasts for brief periods, and Sherman/Buddy's quest to create a permanent version may backfire with disastrous results.
If the story sounds familiar, it's because it is. 'The Nutty Professor' is a remake of the 1963 classic starring Jerry Lewis, and the basic narrative framework has been retained. The big hook for this version, however, was to replace the buck-toothed dork portrayal perfected by Lewis, and replace it with obesity. Murphy here, like Lewis, embodies many different characters (of both sexes and multiple age ranges) throughout the film, only he does most of them under tons and tons of special effects and make-up. If you added up the total pounds of latex of all the various personas Murphy dons in 'The Nutty Professor,' it would probably equal six tons.
Unfortunately, I have one big problem with 'The Nutty Professor': it wants to have its cake and eat it, too. It preaches a story of tolerance and acceptance, yet the majority of its jokes are at the expense of Sherman's weight. As much as I bristle at the idea of political correctness, it's hard to imagine that if the film's crass humor had been directed at race or sexual preference (instead of "fat people") that it ever would have seen the light of day in mainstream cinema.
To be fair, the film is so over-the-top in its comic excesses that it rubs much of the sting off the humor. The film's pivotal scene involves Buddy Love, not long after his initial metamorphosis, getting to take Carla out on a date to a local comedy club. She had previously been taken there by Sherman only a couple of nights before, where he was humiliated by an abrasive stand-up comic, Reggie Warrington (Dave Chappelle). Of course, the irony is that, in many ways, Reggie has done nothing worse than the filmmakers have done the whole movie. Yet, because Murphy is so outrageous as he turns the table on the comic, destroying him with childish one-liners much to the delight of a hysterical crowd, it is surprisingly easy to overlook the film's previous hour of endless, mean-spirited fat jokes and just revel in Sherman's revenge.
'The Nutty Professor' marked a pivotal career turn for Eddie Murphy. After his early-'80s glory days of non-stop blockbusters (including 'Trading Places' and the Beverly Hills Cop series), he floundered in the early '90s with a string of flops too painful to list. Many had written him off by the time 'The Nutty Professor' came around, but Murphy's deft ability to inhabit so many characters convincingly (combined with the film's huge profits) gave him the critical and commercial re-evaluation he so desperately needed.
Indeed, it's a great performance -- Murphy is virtually unrecognizable in many of his latex-heavy guises, yet each character is distinct and memorable. He also invests Sherman with such a genuine humanity that he often manages to elevate the crass shtick to a level of inspired pathos. So if nothing else, see 'The Nutty Professor' to witness why Murphy still deserves to be called one of current cinema's true comedic geniuses.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'The Nutty Professor' to Blu-ray as two-disc combo pack in line with the studio's 100th Annniversary label. The Region Free, BD50 disc sits comfortably on an opposing panel to a DVD-5 copy of the movie. With a sleek and shiny slipcover that opens up on the front, the blue eco-lite packaging includes a pamphlet with a code for a Digital Copy download. At startup, viewers go straight into the film, bypassing the usual main menu window. Those menu options can only be accessed while watching the movie by pressing the pop-up menu.
'The Nutty Professor' struts his way onto Blu-ray with a 1080p/VC-1 encode (1.85:1) that appears to be identical to its HD DVD counterpart. Only one or two sequences stick out with some softer edges, slight ringing, or looking as if artificially sharpened. For the rest of the runtime, the transfer is consistent and pleasing with very good contrast and crisp, clean whites. Blacks are accurate and often inky, providing the image with a respectable amount of depth and an attractive cinematic appeal. Being a comedy, the color palette is, of course, bold and energetic, especially during daylight exteriors around the university campus. A majority of the video is sharply detailed with distinct lines in the architecture and clothing, and facial complexions are naturally rendered with revealing texture.
The Eddie Murphy comedy favorite plumps the sound system with an active and gratifying DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The rears are full of several discrete effects which not only enhance the front soundstage but also create a convincingly immersive soundfield. Whether taking place inside Klumps laboratory or walking around the university campus, the listener is enveloped with an ambience that makes the film come alive and is highly engaging. Dialogue is precise with crystal clear intonations of each actor's varying emotions. The other two channels deliver excellent acoustical details of the conversations while the mid-range provides great clarity in the higher frequencies. The low-end is weighty and responsive, giving the lossless mix an attractive and welcoming presence.
The only special feature available is the movie's original theatrical preview.
Aside from 'Bowfinger,' one of the last great comedies from Eddie Murphy was 'The Nutty Professor.' Overlooking a couple of missteps, the remake offers several gut-busting laughs throughout and features some of Murphy's most memorable performances, playing seven distinctly different roles in the same movie. The Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation, but is sadly lacking in the bonus department, except for two commemorative pieces. Based on the movie and the quality presentation, this is recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.