Think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but funny. Now, add Eddie Murphy and you have a comedy classic that is climbing the super streamer Netflix’s popularity charts, clocking in at #10.
The Nutty Professor, if you are not aware, is actually a remake (we know, so unheard of coming from Hollywood) of the 1963 Jerry Lewis film, that stars Eddie Murphy in one of his more well-received roles.
Eddie Murphy stars in the 1996 hit comedy as Professor Sherman Klump, a morbidly obese professor at Wellman College. Klump is the owner of a very kind heart, one that causes him trouble when he shyly asks out Carla Purty, a chemistry graduate.
Carla, who is a big fan of Professor Klump, takes him up on his suggestion and the two go out for a night on the town. They end up at a comedy club where the resident comic, Reggie Warrington (Dave Chappelle), proceeds to unload on Sherman for his obesity.
All the while, Eddie Murphy’s Sherman has been experimenting at school with a formula that would reconstruct a person’s DNA to allow for weight to be lost easily and fast. The comedy club incident has pushed Sherman to experiment on himself. It works.
What doesn’t work is the formula’s lasting power. It only gives Sherman a short amount of time to enjoy his much thinner physique, so while he is thin, he has created an alter ego he calls, Buddy Love. Buddy is confident, egotistical, and uses that combination to ask Carla out one more time. She doesn’t know that Buddy is actually Sherman. They return to the comedy club where Buddy exacts his revenge on Reggie by heckling him relentlessly.
Eddie Murphy’s Sherman now has a problem or two. Carla finds Buddy, though very aggressive, also very attractive. Sherman is also beginning to see that Buddy doesn’t want to leave. Buddy wants Sherman to go away so Buddy can take over his life.
Buddy does, little by little. He begins to take credit for Sherman’s work. He gains the approval of Wellman College’s dean and its wealthy donor. His confidence and Playboy mentality cause him to cheat on Carla with three different women, causing her to walk away from him. Sherman knows he must do something to stop Buddy. But what?
For The Nutty Professor, Eddie Murphy did something virtually unheard of in movies. He played five different characters. On top of playing Sherman, Murphy (assisted by make-up guru and legend Rick Baker) was transformed into Sherman’s father (Papa Cletus Klump), Sherman’s Mother (Mama Anna Klump), Sherman’s Grandmother (Grandma Ida Mae Jenson), Sherman’s bother (Ernie Klump Sr.), and Lance Perkins.
The make-up effects were amazing, to say the least. Baker knows his way around an effects room as he has been nominated for a record eleven Academy Awards while winning a record seven. His first win came all the way back in 1981 for the horror film, An American Werewolf in London.
Baker even went out of his way to credit Murphy and his patience in the makeup chair, saying that over the course of filming The Nutty Professor that Eddie Murphy sat for what amount to 80 plus days in the chair and not once complained. “As much as I love makeup, even I would have been complaining by the end, but Eddie didn’t,” Baker told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Tom Shadyac had just come off directing Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when he was handed the reins to The Nutty Professor. Shadyac would go on to direct Carrey a couple more times in Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty. The script was written by David Sheffield, Barry W. Blaustein, Steve Oedekerk, and Shadyac though Eddie Murphy also had a lot to do with the final product.
Of course, the movie owes itself all to the dated, but hilarious 1963 Lewis film. Jerry Lewis also had a role in The Nutty Professor, but not on the big screen. He was the executive producer on the film, as well as the film’s sequel, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps. While Lewis was proud of the first film, the late actor was not thrilled with being part of the second film, commenting to the New York Post, “I have such respect for Eddie, but I should not have done it. What I did was perfect the first time around and all you’re going to do is diminish that perfection by letting someone else do it.”
At the time of The Nutty Professor, Eddie Murphy was on a major roller coaster when it came to choosing movies to appear in. He had just finished the disastrous Beverly Hills Cop III and Vampire in Brooklyn before he rebounded with The Nutty Professor.
He would then go on to film another dud with Metro before voicing Mushu in Mulan. His next role came in the respectable Doctor Dolittle but then he dipped way down again with Holy Man. The roller coaster would not stop until Murphy decided to step away from acting for almost seven years.
From 2012 through 2019, Eddie Murphy fans would see him one time on the big screen, and it was in the little-seen film, Mr. Church. Murphy wouldn’t enjoy the fruits of his labor until his big “comeback” with the 2019 Netflix hit, Dolemite is My Name. He followed that up with the lukewarm sequel, Coming to America 2. The movie received probably more attention than it deserved.
Eddie Murphy looks to continue his box office resurgence with his next film, Triplets. In it, he plays the brother to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, who are reprising their roles as Julius and Vincent Benedict from the 1988 hit comedy, Twins. There is also a strong rumor that Murphy will head back to the Axel Foley-well one more time with Beverly Hills Cop 4. Not sure if that one is a good idea or not.
For now, you can revisit one of Eddie Murphy’s classic comedies, The Nutty Professor, now on Netflix.