The man on the moon.
Someone needs to talk to Eddie Murphy's agent, and right quick. In the last twelve years or so, has any superstar had as many comebacks as Mr. Murphy? He does a decent movie (notice I didn't say great or even good), then he does five bad ones. Then he does another decent movie, then seven bad ones. It's enough to make your head spin. 2002 was an especially bad year for Murphy with stinkers like Showtime and I Spy leaving bad tastes in moviegoers' mouths. The Adventures of Pluto Nash had an especially poignant resonation—it cost Warner around $100 million to make and only six people in total went to see it upon its theatrical release. Ouch. Warner has released The Adventures of Pluto Nash on DVD so we can all have a good lunar laugh at this film's expense.
Facts of the Case
Eddie Murphy is Pluto Nash, a former smuggler who now owns one of the hottest night clubs on the moon. The plot of this film has something to do with a mob boss wanting to buy out Nash's club. Naturally, Nash doesn't want to sell. This in turn leads to many many scenes of Nash, his love interest (Rosario Dawson, Men In Black II), and his robot bodyguard (Randy Quaid, National Lampoon's Vacation, Kingpin) running from a hit man played by Joe Pantoliano (TV's The Sopranos, The Goonies) sporting a very scary and unfunny hairpiece. Along the way they'll run into all kinds of wacky characters until finally meeting up with the mega-thug who wants to buy his club (I won't divulge here who he is, though I will say this: who cares!).
For once you can believe the slander: The Adventures of Pluto Nash is as bad as they say. Ineptly made, acted, and executed, The Adventures of Pluto Nash is the biggest Hollywood bomb this reviewer can recall since…oh, let's just say the mega-turd Battlefield Earth. You've gotta wonder how a movie like this gets made—was it pitched to the studio and people went wild over it? Then did it all just spiral out of control? Or was it a labor of love for the usually talented director Ron Underwood (Tremors, City Slickers) that ended up as an ill-fated idea? Whatever the reason, someone had hope that The Adventures of Pluto Nash would be a blockbuster of immense proportions. They were wrong. Very, very wrong.
The problems with The Adventures of Pluto Nash go beyond the cast, but for the sake of argument let's start there. Eddie Murphy plays Eddie Murphy playing Eddie Murphy. He flashes his trademark smile, all the while mugging to the camera as if every bug-eyed move were a thousand dollar check (and judging by the film's budget, I may not be far off). Murphy is a fine comedic actor, which would all be well and good, but The Adventures of Pluto Nash isn't really a comedy—but more on that later. Rosario Dawson plays Murphy's love interest, and while I think she's a talented, adorable actress, the sad fact is she's wasted in a role like this. Randy Quaid as Nash's robotic bodyguard is just strange; the character is supposed to be funny, but there's never enough good material for the comedy to thrive. The rest of the supporting cast is made up of a really fine assortment of character actors: Joe Pantoliano as a hit man; Jay Mohr as a lounge singer; Luis Guzman as traveling trailer trash; Peter Boyle as one of Nash's buddies; Pam Grier as Nash's hardpackin' momma; John Cleese as a holographic driver. On top of that, the film also includes cameos by Burt Young, Miguel A. Nunez, Illeana Douglas, and James Rebhorn. I often wonder how these big name flops are able to wrangle fairly well known faces for even the smallest character bits. Did all of these people have faith in The Adventures of Pluto Nash? Or was this just a hefty payday all around?
While most all of those fine actors are wasted, it's not really the acting that tanks The Adventures of Pluto Nash (though it doesn't help). No, what really does this film in is the schizophrenic nature of the story. First it's a comedy, then an action movie. Next it's a thriller, then a mystery whodunit. The Adventures of Pluto Nash wants to have its cake and eat it too, then wash it down with a glass of milk and spend the night with a hooker. In the process of trying to be almost all things to all viewers, it ends up a total mess. While I sat quietly and followed the story, I never once cared about any of the characters or their motivations. I might not have minded this so much had the film tried for some honest belly laughs. The attempt at wit and verbal humor fails, as does any physical shtick (most of it involving Quaid and his humanistic yet robotic facial expressions). As it stands, the funniest moment in the film is when one character accidentally drops a missile head out of the wrong side of the launcher. Har-har-har. This gag takes all of three seconds to complete.
Much was made about the film's budget of $100 million dollars, and I can safely say that it all must have went to Murphy's paycheck. There are no scenes of wonder to be found in this film. If I had known nothing about The Adventures of Pluto Nash and you were to have sat me down and asked me how much I thought the budget was, I'd say around $30 million, tops. The effects aren't very convincing, period.
I'd say this is an action film, but the action isn't very exciting. I'd say this was a comedy, but the comedy isn't funny. I'd say this was a thriller, but the thrills were nonexistent. I'd say that The Adventures of Pluto Nash sucks, but I'm sure you already realize that by now.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I wasn't as thrilled with this transfer as expected—there are a lot of muted blues and grays here, and the colors that do appear aren't as bright and cheery as one might expect. Aside of that minor flaw, this rest of the image is in good working order. The black levels are solid and dark with detail looking very nice. While this isn't a spectacular transfer, it's very apt for the film.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English and French. Much like the video portions of the disc, this sound mix is not as good as one might expect from a film less than a year old. The mix contains some decent surround sounds and directional effects, though John Powell's overly bombastic music is far too heavily on display. Otherwise, I noticed no distortion or excessive hiss in the mix. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The big question is, "How could The Adventures of Pluto Nash have been any worse?" The answer: if Warner had decided to make a full-blown special edition DVD. Thankfully, they didn't. What viewers do get are a few rough-looking non-anamorphic deleted scenes that would only have added more boredom to the final cut of the film. Also included on this disc is a video for the song "Ain't No Need"—a more apt title for the film I cannot imagine—by the music group IMx, a making of featurette for the video (snoooooze), and an anamorphic theatrical trailer.
Bad movies don't come much larger than this. A complete and utter bomb. If you're like me and just have to see why a movie did so poorly, give The Adventures of Pluto Nash a spin. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and have a Kevin Costner double feature of Waterworld and The Postman.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is found guilty of just about every crime in the book. Sentenced to life in prison with possible time off for good behavior (and "good behavior" means Eddie Murphy making a decent movie).
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Deleted Scenes
Review content copyright © 2002 Patrick Naugle; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.