& Area Guide
Return of the Klumps
By PHILIP BOOTH
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 28, 2000
But to that criticism, here's a ready retort: Loosen up. Relax. Grab another handful of popcorn.
Murphy, as bumbling biology professor Sherman Klump and five other members of the always hungry, constantly wisecracking Klump family, buoys his portrayals with so much good-natured fun, bawdy humor and sentimentality that viewers are likely to go home with genuine affection for these folks.
It's downright difficult to resist the charms of Sherman, a mild-mannered genius and perennial lonely heart who makes his declaration of love for pretty colleague Denise Gaines (Janet Jackson) with the help of a mariachi band and, later, some useful fireflies.
The same might be said about the other members of the clan: Mama is proud to bursting of her boy, always ready to clap in delight and shout his name in appreciation of his talents. Brother Ernie is constantly on the make, but far more interested in grabbing that last piece of chicken. Papa, king of the home-version colon cleansing procedure, at one point morphs into a younger, slimmer, leisure suit-wearing ladies' man. And he's constantly trading comic death threats with Granny, the relentlessly rude matriarch of the family, given to spouting sexually graphic observations at the most inopportune moments.
"Isaac's still like a Brahman bull when it comes to relations," Granny boasts about her wizened lover during a slapstick outing at a restaurant. She's also quick to put the moves on Buddy Love, Sherman's evil alter ego; their real and imagined encounters provoked more raucous response than other passages during a recent screening.
The Klumps made their debut during an unforgettable dinner-table set piece in The Nutty Professor, the immensely likable 1996 hit remake of the classic 1963 vehicle for Jerry Lewis (executive producer for both Murphy movies).
So Murphy, sequel director Peter Segal (My Fellow Americans, Tommy Boy) and their screenwriting team smartly upped the ante, giving loads of well-used screen time to Granny and the others. The payoff is substantial: The second Nutty is consistently funnier than the first, and it all but assures a third installment in a franchise that ought to remind Murphy naysayers about the, uh, heft of the guy's comic talents. Props, too, ought to go to Rick Baker, the veteran makeup wizard responsible for the star's remarkable, seamless transformations.
Sherman, this time out, is on the verge of yet another earth-shaking scientific discovery, a potion that promises to turn back time for those who swallow the liquid, a veritable fountain of youth. The experiment has already worked on a friendly beagle and a particularly randy hamster, a creature that later gets its memorable revenge courtesy of a scary incident partly reminiscent of '50s shlock sci-fi. Smarmy, sarcastic Dean Richmond (Larry Miller, perfectly cast) is again ready to help Spellman College reap the benefits of the find: A pharmaceutical company is prepared to give the school $150-million in exchange for the formula.
Trouble is, the shy biology professor has some issues to deal with. There's the smothering love of his family and his inability to make a connection with Denise (ably portrayed by pop star Jackson, last seen on the big screen in 1993's Poetic Justice), full of admiration for Sherman's brains and kindness, but perhaps turned off by his girth.
Even worse is the reappearance of Love, the trim, suave sex machine created during the course of Sherman's efforts to chemically shed his unwanted flab. A residual amount of Love's raunch and mean spirit remains in his inventor's body, and the little devil literally rears his ugly head from the professor's groin during a riotous dream sequence that opens the movie.
Nearly all the elements stick together as they should in Nutty Professor II, and Murphy and his co-stars manage to keep the gross-out humor just this side of truly obnoxious and repulsive (unlike, say, the kind of jokes spewed in Scary Movie and Me, Myself and Irene). This is that rarest of sequels, one that builds on the potential of the first and leaves us wanting more. How often can you say that about a movie with Roman numerals in its title?