Eddie Murphy's remake of "The Nutty Professor" struck gold four years ago, and "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" is poised to do the same. It might even outgross its predecessor, since it serves up Murphy in no fewer than eight roles - enough to delight his fans, although it may drive his detractors as nutty as the title character himself.
Murphy's first "Nutty Professor" centered on a bashful scientist named Sherman Klump, whose newly discovered elixir turned him into a foul-mouthed womanizer. The most talked-about scene featured Murphy as Sherman's entire family, comporting themselves around the dinner table with the kind of unrestrained vulgarity that summertime audiences adore. The sequel stretches this sequence into a whole movie, drowning the earlier picture's most interesting angle - the complex relationship between the best and worst aspects of Murphy's own persona - in a swamp of sex jokes and bathroom humor.
It's ironic that Jerry Lewis is one of the film's five executive producers. Lewis originated "The Nutty Professor" in a 1963 comedy that generates Jekyll-and-Hyde laughs with far more intelligence and a notable absence of the elaborate prostheses, special effects, and other gimmicks that Murphy and company rely on from start to finish. These cosmetic devices contrast with Jim Carrey in his recent movies, which return to Lewis's great tradition of body-based acting skills.
What interested Lewis in the '60s was the tension between our private selves and the public roles we play for the people in our lives. What interests Murphy today is how far rudeness and crudeness can be pushed without cracking the profitable PG-13 rating barrier. There's nothing nutty about his financial ambitions, but his over-the-top energy isn't enough to make this numbingly repetitious farce worth watching.
*Rated PG-13; contains much verbal and visual vulgarity.
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