The Nutty Professor (Tom Shadyac)

Rating: *1/2 (out of ****)

How much you enjoy Eddie Murphy's remake of Jerry Lewis' 1963 variation on Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde will largely depend upon how much you enjoy scatological humor, or how many volumes of Truly Tasteless Jokes you've thumbed through. If fart jokes, fat jokes, and the notion of someone drinking from a cup into which a hamster has just pooped strike you as hilarious, you may laugh yourself sick -- the crowd with which I saw the film was in stitches. If, on the other hand, you tend to find that sort of comedy unpalatable, as I do, it's more likely that you'll find yourself wishing to be elsewhere, as I did; depending on one's point of view, I'm either too sophisticated or too uptight to have fun at a movie like this. Pity, too, because Murphy gives what I assume to be his best performance(s) in many years as the enormous, good-hearted Sherman Klump and Klump's skinny, arrogant alter ego, Buddy Love. (I have to assume this, I'm afraid, as I've skipped every other Murphy vehicle since enduring Another 48 Hrs. back in 1990.) Encased for much of the film in a mountain of impressive makeup, Murphy is unable to coast on the brash, "lovably" obnoxious persona he developed well over a decade ago, and to which, until now, he's stubbornly clung; as Sherman, he actually has to act, and his portrayal of this lonely, gentle fellow is surprisingly affecting (so much so that, what with the makeup and all, it's often hard to remember, or even believe, that it is Eddie Murphy). Buddy Love, intriguingly, is a rather self-critical parody of the typical Murphy character, with the chutzpah and narcissism cranked up to an almost intolerable degree, suggesting that Murphy is finally growing tired of delivering the same old shtick. Good news -- now if he can just find a screenplay that isn't utterly puerile, preferably one featuring no connection with anyone involved with one of the Ace Ventura pictures (The Nutty Professor was co-written and directed by Tom Shadyac, who directed the first Ventura film; Steve Oedekerk, who directed the second, also had a hand in this script), we'll be getting somewhere.