This movie signalled the death of Eddie Murphy, 1980's comedy king, and the birth of Eddie Murphy, talking donkey.Eddie Murphy had hit a serious dry spell when he made "The Nutty Professor". His last movie before he turned the page towards kiddiedom was "Vampire in Brooklyn", which tanked, as had "Beverly Hills Cop 3", "Distinguished Gentleman", and "Getting Arrested with a Transvestite Prostitute". Oh, wait. That was after Nutty Professor. Never mind. This was the first step back towards box office success for Eddie, and the first of many steps away from the persona which made him millions in the 80's, but was slowly killing his career in the 90's. It's almost an apologia for all the crappy movies he made after "Coming to America".
"The end of Eddie Murphy as we knew him."
Eddie plays Sherman Klump, the same character Jerry Lewis played in the 1963 version, albeit with one major difference; in 1963, Lewis played Klump as a skinny nerd, while Murphy played Klump as a big fat nerd. Klump discovers a magic DNA altering potion which turns him into Buddy Love, ladies' man, and total asshole. It's now generally accepted that Lewis' portrayal of Buddy Love was a shot at Dean Martin, his former partner. Murphy, however, seems to be portraying Buddy Love as the Eddie Murphy we saw in his movies in the late 80's - the smug, loud, obnoxious dick who's convinced he's the funniest guy in the room, and doesn't care if anyone agrees with him or not. (Watch "Eddie Murphy: Raw" to see Buddy Love live in concert.)
The two halves of Eddie Murphy fight over Sherman's body, and for the love of Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett). The special effects and makeup in Sherman's transformations into Buddy and back again are a marvel, and Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson deserved their Oscar for their work. It's a genuine wonder to watch Eddie play the entire Klump family, and Murphy pulls it off amazingly. The rest of the performances are adequate, but everyone knows it's Eddie Murphy's show.
There were a lot of people who took offense at the almost non-stop stream of fat jokes lobbed towards Klump over the course of the film, and perhaps they had a point; we, of course, know that whenever anyone calls Sherman a tub, or Buttzilla, or Fatty McFattenheimer, no matter how sad Sherman looks, we know that it's just skinny old Eddie under there, and we laugh it off. The movie is one, long fat joke for 90% of its running time, right up until its "Oh, yeah, fat people are nice too" ending. It's the same criticism that the Farrelly brothers faced for "Shallow Hal" last year. It's a lot easier and more guilt-free to laugh at fat people if you know that they get to take off their fat at the end of the day. For some viewers, that may detract from their enjoyment.
There are a lot of laughs, however, to be found in this movie, but it's much more physical humor than what we're used to in an Eddie Murphy movie. There are tons of pratfalls, a shitload (pardon the pun) of bodily function-related jokes, and dozens upon dozens of "Har har, look what chubby bumped into now!" moments. From "48 Hrs" and "Beverly Hills Cop", where Murphy's prime source of humor seemed to be his ability to talk his way in and out of every situation, he moved heavily (pardon the pun again) in the other direction. Again, the character who gets most of the laughs based on what they say is Buddy Love.
I liked this movie a lot, both as a comedy, and as a eulogy. I had grown tired of Eddie the way he was, as had most of the world. This is his farewell to all that. I don't know if we can say he's evolved, going from the sheer brilliance of his stand-up and his early film work to the safe haven of "Dr. Dolittle 2", but at least he's found a new paying audience. He's gone from Richard Pryor to Bill Cosby, and it works for him.
It's interesting to watch this movie, knowing what we now know about Murphy's subsequent career choices after this career rebirth. He seems to be heading more and more towards kids' films, and he has said in many interviews that he wants to make films that his own children can enjoy. In the end, Sherman Klump, the lovable, goofy hero who falls down and farts a lot, triumphs over Buddy Love, the edgy asshole who gets the more dangerous kind of laughter. It's kind of like a documentary, really.A good movie, and one you can watch with the whole family. Just like "Delirious".
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originally posted: 06/19/02 11:59:41