Film Reviews

Waist of space

For one moment--and that's all you can stomach--really look at Eddie Murphy's filmography. You will notice how his bad films (and most transcend that feeble definition, falling more often into the "wretched" category) far outweigh the good. You will see that those few good films--Murphy's Holy Trinity of Funny: 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Beverly Hills Cop--are way down on the résumé, buried in a time capsule marked "Early Eighties." We are nothing if not the most apologetic and amnesiac culture: We've long since forgiven and forgotten such puerile and cynical and plain foolish missteps as Best Defense, The Golden Child, Metro, Holy Man, Boomerang, The Distinguished Gentleman, the Beverly Hills Cop's an endless, laughless list. Eddie Murphy has made better choices on Los Angeles street corners.

But it will not be so easy to erase Nutty Professor II: The Klumps from memory; it will linger like a foul odor or the taste of tinfoil between the teeth. Even now, the image of a giant, gnashing rodent shooting football-sized pellets out of its cannon-like ass haunts like a nightmare; even now, the image of that very same rodent anally raping Wellman College's Dean Richmond (comedian Larry Miller) sticks somewhere between the lower intestine and the throat, burning its way into the mouth. The scene isn't outrageous enough to offend or outlandish enough to amuse even at the most base level. It's hard to tell which is more odious: the action itself, or the thought that Murphy, director Peter Segel, and the handful of screenwriters (including American Pie director Paul Weitz) think us empty-headed enough to find this funny. The Klumps is easily the most contemptuous movie of this vapid summer season: It thinks you're an idiot.

This movie erases whatever goodwill Murphy engendered in last year's Steve Martin-penned Bowfinger, in which Murphy mocked his own supercilious image by playing both an egocentric, paranoid actor and his schleppy wannabe brother. Turns out Bowfinger was just a speed bump on the road to hell, the same one paved with episodes of Murphy's Fox-TV series The PJs, set in a claymated ghetto. For The Klumps, there can be no redemption.

Disregard the movie's title and the trailer's promise that this sequel to the surprise 1996 hit focuses on Professor Sherman Klump's large-and-in-charge family, all portrayed by Murphy in various sizes and genders. (Makeup artist Rick Baker deserves top billing; his prosthetics have more life than the man inside them.) The Klumps are relegated to the sidelines, gross caricatures meant to distract us from the movie's disjointed, inane plotline. The Klumps--especially Mama and Papa Klump, the latter of whom suffers from erectile dysfunction, which is ruining the couple's 44-year-long marriage--belong in another movie or, better yet, a pilot for a WB sitcom. There, they can bitch and bicker without having to compete with mutated hamsters, a subplot about a fountain-of-youth formula, and Sherman's slim and sneering alter-ego, the vile Buddy Love, who's liberated from Sherman's round-mound body by a gene-eradication experiment gone awry. This is a movie in which Janet Jackson, playing Sherman's fiancée Denice, unwittingly utters the funniest lines with a straight face, among them: "Sherman and Buddy have to be recombined immediately!" Jackson, incidentally, is completely wasted in this film; her breasts, apparently on loan from Mama Klump, have more to do.

Initially, this movie's about how Sherman has to deal with the Buddy Within: During the opening dream sequence, in which Sherman imagines himself at the altar with Denice, Buddy emerges first from the front, and then the back, of Sherman's tent-sized pants; Buddy's both dickhead and asshole. Sherman's psychiatrist explains that Buddy represents Sherman's "uninhibited, hedonistic id," and for a while, Buddy exists only as an echo that rumbles around his brain, forcing him to do and say things against his will. If the movie dealt only with that particular subject--the conflict between two opposites trapped in the same body--it might have made a better film; frankly, a fetus could have made a better film. But Segel, whose previous credits include Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and Tommy Boy, has neither talent nor taste for subtlety; what's inner struggle without flaming farts to go along with it?

The Klumps might be the world's first truly interactive movie: When Sherman and Buddy split, they find they can't function without each other (a plot reminiscent of at least one Star Trek episode). Buddy, the first film's Lothario, takes on the characteristics of a dog (don't ask why); he barks, chases cats, and relieves himself on newspapers. Sherman, on the other hand, becomes dumber by the second, until he finally devolves into a jiggling mass of whimpers and blurts. Audiences will feel much the same way by the end of the movie's 110 minutes (!). You'll be lucky to find your car, much less remember how to move your legs to leave the theater.