'90s Movie Month: "The Nutty Professor" Review

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'90s Movie Month: "The Nutty Professor" Review

Rating: PG-13 (Crude humor, sexual references)
Length: 95 minutes
Release date: June 28, 1996
Directed by: Tom Shadyac
Genre: Comedy/Romance/Sci-Fi

"The Nutty Professor" is a 1996 comedy by director Tom Shadyac, who also directed "Liar Liar," another popular comedic film from the same era. "The Nutty Professor" stars comedian Eddie Murphy as the entire Klump family, a group of portly, kind-hearted souls. Murphy's primary character is Professor Sherman Klump, a brilliant genetics professor who has devoted much of his career to the restructuring of human DNA. Klump makes a major breakthrough in his research just as a gorgeous new teacher walks into his life.

Carla Purty, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, is as lovely as she is brilliant, and she has a seemingly inexplicable crush on Professor Klump. Sherman immediately dismisses her as being too far out of his league and begins devising unnecessary schemes to become worthy of her affections. Sherman has struggled with his weight his entire life, and he believes that his work may be the key to solving all his problems and getting the girl of his dreams to notice him. His hunch proves right, and he successfully transforms himself into Buddy Love, a svelte and attractive bad boy who sets out to win Carla's heart. Buddy is virtually unrecognizable as Sherman on the outside, and he proves to be even more different on the inside. The change leads to its fair share of romantic complications for Carla, Sherman, and Buddy.

Murphy is absolutely hilarious as both Professor Klump and his dashing alter ego, Buddy, as well as his multiple roles as members of the Klump family. Shadyac's slapstick humor comes through in full force throughout the film, striking just the right balance between uproarious laughter and heartwarming moments. Jada Pinkett Smith gives an outstanding supporting performance as Carla Purty, and she adds plenty of comedic depth to the dream girl archetype. Carla proves herself to be more than just a pretty face and insists that Sherman should look past her outward appearance, just as she looks past his to see him for who he really is.

Unfortunately for Sherman, his brilliance in the sciences does not translate well to relationships. In an effort to win his dream girl, he winds up becoming someone she can't even stand to be around. Buddy seems like the perfect man on the surface, but underneath, he proves to be vapid and shallow. Not only does he disregard Carla's feelings, he also begins to lose sight of the things that made Sherman a good person in the first place.

With the help of Carla and his family, Sherman begins to realize that he never really needed to change who he was to achieve the life he wanted. Buddy has the confidence Sherman lacks in abundance but proves that you really can have too much of a good thing. The interactions between Sherman and his family add plenty to an already hilarious storyline, making "The Nutty Professor" one of the most unique comedic films of its time. The relationship between Sherman Clump and Carla is relatable and endearing, and audiences will find themselves rooting for Sherman to the very end.

"The Nutty Professor" delivers humor on multiple levels, from Sherman's slapstick antics in the lab to Buddy's over-the-top womanizing and one-liners. The script might be outrageous, but it strikes a fine balance between wit and camp. The overall message of the film to not change who you are stands out strongly through all the laughs, making this a relatively family-friendly film in spite of its PG-13 rating.

"The Nutty Professor" has certainly earned its place in the '90s comedy hall of fame alongside "Liar Liar" and "Junior," two bizarre comedies in the same style. Director Shadyac proves once again that he is capable of creating a witty and relatable film that keeps audiences laughing the whole way through. For this reason alone, "The Nutty Professor" may be one of the most underrated comedies of its time. Audiences will relate to Sherman's desire to improve his outward appearance and be popular as well as to his ultimate realization that it's cool to be a bit uncool. By the end of the film, Sherman must battle it out not only with his lecherous alter ego but with his own insecurities and weaknesses as well. "The Nutty Professor" is a great comedy to reach for if you want a refreshing change of pace from formulaic gags that offers a truly unique plot and memorable characters.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5