Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps (United States, 2000)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Eddie Murphy's 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor is one of those movies that, at least from a creative perspective, neither deserves nor warrants a sequel. What's the point? More of the same, it seems. Any time a movie makes $130 million in the U.S. and nearly $250 million worldwide, and the potential, however thin, for a second installment exists, the film will be made. So, the existence of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is a purely economic endeavor, a workmanlike deal for which journeyman comedy director Peter Segal (Naked Gun 33 1/3, My Fellow Americans) was hired. And, from the opening credits, it looks and feels that way.

The problem certainly isn't Eddie Murphy who, with the aid of Hollywood makeup man extraordinary Rick Baker, gives the part his all, turning in no fewer than seven characters, only one of which doesn't require padding and latex. Murphy's versatility is much in evidence here. In addition to the gentle, meek lead character, Professor Sherman Klump, he plays four other family members: Sherman's genteel mother, gruff father, clueless brother, and randy grandmother. As if that wasn't enough, he also portrays Sherman's hound-dog alter ego, Buddy Love, as well as a younger version of Papa Klump. There are times when Murphy's whirlwind, energetic approach almost saves Nutty Professor II.

It's interesting to look at the trajectory of Murphy's career. After starting out in the mid-'70s on Saturday Night Live, he moved to the big screen, where he quickly became an action/comedy box-office draw. In some quarters, Murphy was known as much for his profanity as for his toothy smile, and the controversial release of 1987's Eddie Murphy Raw did nothing to dispel this reputation. A little more than a decade later, however, Murphy has re-made his image into that of a family-friendly comedian. With roles in two Nutty Professor movies, one Dr. Dolittle, and a speaking part in Dinsey's animated Mulan, Murphy has widened his audience considerably.

It's fair to question whether Nutty Professor II deserves its "PG-13" rating. It is raunchy enough that an "R" wouldn't have been out-of-the-question. A significant portion of the jokes are related to either flatulence or sex, and there's a scene with a little kid spouting profanity (voice dubbed by Murphy) and doing more than ogle a pair of bra-clad breasts. To be fair, this is just the kind of lowbrow humor that will have junior high and high school students rolling in the aisles, since the 11-16 year-old crowd finds this sort of stuff funnier than the rest of us. That's not to say that Nutty Professor II doesn't offer any laughs for a more mature audience. The scenes of Murphy imitating a half-man/half-dog are a riot, as are some of the barbed one-liners he tosses out. There's also an inspired dream sequence that lampoons three science fiction features: Star Wars (using John Williams' music - that couldn't have come cheap), Armageddon, and 2001. But, to be frank, how many times can a fart joke be amusing? Haven't we seen that variety of comedy often enough? And, once we've giggled at Grandma's frank sex talk a time or two, isn't it like beating a dead horse? Murphy is a gifted comic actor; he deserves better material than this.

It might have helped if Nutty Professor II was founded on the semblance of a coherent storyline, but this plot is too silly and preposterous even for this kind of cotton candy production. It features the return of Sherman Klump, the gentle giant genius who has learned that it's better to be fat and kind than skinny and crass. Sherman is in love with a fellow professor at Wellman College, the attractive Denise Gains (Janet Jackson). After much hemming and hawing, he asks her to marry him in one of the most unique proposal sequences (featuring an army of fireflies) in recent motion picture history. She accepts, and the entire Klump clan is delighted. But trouble, in the form of Buddy Love, is lurking just beneath Sherman's exterior. And, when the professor believes that his nasty alter-ego could be a danger to his impending marriage, he decides to have the "Buddy" gene extracted from his DNA. Diaster ensues. Not only does the result cause Sherman to slowly lose his intelligence, but Buddy uses host material from a dog to reconstitute himself. His price for extracting himself from Sherman's life: a youth serum that a pharmaceutical company is willing to pay $150 million for.

Nutty Professor II isn't quite long enough to be tedious, but there are stretches when it tries one's patience. Crisper editing probably would have helped, but the filmmakers apparently were reluctant to lose a single frame of Murphy in makeup. The movie also attempts to have a human, semi-dramatic side (Sherman learning to respect himself and his girlfriend; Mom and Pop rekindling their love after all these years), but the saccharine component comes across as cloying, not pleasant. The screenplay (co-written by brothers Chris & Paul Weitz, who are currently on display as actors in Chuck & Buck) is in desperate need of an overhaul. And what does it say about a film when the biggest laughs occur during the end credit outtakes? For a movie that probably never should have been made, the best part arrives once The End is past.

Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps (United States, 2000)

Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller, John Ales
Screenplay: Barry W. Blaustein & David Sheffield and Paul Weitz & Chris Weitz
Cinematography: Dean Semler
Music: David Newman
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 1:45
U.S. Release Date: 2000-07-28
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1