Universal // 1996 // 96 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 9th, 2007
Inside Sherman Klump, a party animal is about to break out.
Eddie Murphy, that comedic phenom of the early-Eighties' retooling of Saturday Night Live and his own stand-up film, 1983's Delirious, had everything right where he wanted it. After making his foray into theatrical features opposite Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs., Murphy was poised for continued greatness, and did well with follow on features. Then came Harlem Nights, Another 48 Hrs., and Boomerang, and it became apparent that his career had veered off course. By a stroke of good fortune, he found himself in the midst of a remake of Jerry Lewis' 1963 favorite, The Nutty Professor, in which the original King of Comedy stepped into a dual role, one part bookish researcher, the other a deplorable lounge lizard. For Lewis, it was gold; for Murphy, it shined up to be a saving grace that put him back in the limelight.
Sherman Klump (Murphy) is a brilliant chemist and geneticist who's physical clumsiness has just caused the university where he teaches to lose its key science funding. You see, Klump is clumsy and oafish in his behavior but, rather, it's his massive 400-pound girth that caused him to unwittingly throw a lever that loosed all of the lab's hamsters upon the students, faculty, and underwriters. Ready to strangle Klump for his mistake, the slimy Dean Richmond (Larry Miller, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) insists the rotund professor make no slip ups when financier Harlan Hartley (James Coburn, Harry in Your Pocket) arrives to review the research he might -- or might not -- sponsor. Of course, neither Buddy nor Dean Richmond could have anticipated the trouble Buddy Love would cause. Who's Buddy? Buddy is the alter ego of Klump, a slim and flashy fellow who emerges from Klump's fattened frame upon the administering of a glowing serum; a smarmy womanizer who seizes upon a lovely graduate student, Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett Smith, The Matrix Reloaded), who had struck Klump's fancy. Able to walk proud among the ladies as Buddy, Klump begins to lose control as the repeated doses of serum cede his life and livelihood to the seedy swinger.
Although it's been 11 years since the film's original release, The Nutty Professor is still a very funny film, thanks to Murphy's excellent performance. Truly, he is a versatile actor who can summon an impressive and convincing array of moods and emotions, yet comedy is still his winning gig. The beauty of this picture is how Murphy was able to re-apply much of his Saturday Night Live shtick -- stepping inside multiple characters (remember Mr. Robinson, Buckwheat, and Gumby -- dammit!). His performance under the mounds of Rick Baker appliances as Sherman Klump is superb, Murphy actively using exaggerated eye movements to express the character's emotions. As Buddy Love, it's simply Murphy at his manic best, likely drawing on some of the actor's own inherent unsavory personal moments (just as Jerry Lewis ultimately became the prickly persona of his own Buddy Love). The best moments, though, are when Murphy portrays the entire Klump family at the dinner table sequences. This is where the film is ultimately hilarious -- you'd have to work hard not to laugh out loud at the shenanigans that go on in those scenes.
This 1080p / VC-1 encoded HD DVD transfer delivers an excellent image for an eleven-year-old film. The colors especially benefit from the high definition mastering, although they run a bit on the red side. The detail level is excellent, drawing out all manner of texture in clothing and skin. (Give credit to Rick Baker's excellent appliance work, as the heightened picture quality doesn't noticeably reveal any seams in the latex pieces.) Black levels look great without crush, retaining shadow detail quite impressively. Film grain is present at times, but never in a distracting way. Overall, this is a great re-master that offers plenty of dimensionality. For audio, the Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 Surround mix is perfectly suited to the picture. The original sound design was certainly not a bombastic affair, so don't expect swirling audio effects. Nevertheless, there are moments when the surrounds come to life (listen to the dogs rummaging through the Klump family's garbage cans off-screen), and the score certainly extends nicely. The low-end channel also gets targeted use, especially when the morphing begins. Through it all, the dialog remains clear and properly centered. Sadly, there are no extras to be found here, just as with the previous standard definition DVD release.
As much of a breakthrough as this film's physical effects were, its computer-generated moments look pretty bad today. Granted, CGI was still in a somewhat nascent phase in 1996, and it's conceivable that what was presented was impressive in its day (I can't exactly remember). Excuses aside, the CG moments where Buddy morphs wildly back into Sherman look far too obvious and rather poorly matched. The worst moments come when he reverts while driving wildly in the red Viper, the flat contrast of the CG elements ruining the illusion. Thankfully, the film has enough good performances and genuinely funny moments to overcome the technical deficiency.
If you haven't seen The Nutty Professor in a while, here's a perfect opportunity to get reacquainted with a very funny film. And, with the HD upgrade, this one looks better than ever.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13