Classics: The Nutty Professor (1996)

Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor is by far one of my favorite Eddie Murphy movies. It is top three for me and I dare someone to give another one of his movies that is better than what’s already in my top three.

It took Marlon Wayans to make me go back and reassess the genius that is this movie but I first want to address something for us Generation Z and Millennials. This is a remake, everyone. Eddie Murphy did not come up with this idea but he blew the original out of the water, and yes, I have seen enough of the original to say that. But back to Marlon and his understanding of the genius.

In the original movie, there were just two characters Jerry Lewis had to turn into, Julius Kelp and his alter ego Buddy Love. Eddie Murphy said, “Lemme do that and then some” AND DID HE. In the entire movie, Murphy played SIX, distinct characters. That’s four more than Lewis. No shade to the legend that is Jerry Lewis. Now, at this point in his career, playing multiple characters in one movie is Murphy’s signature. Murphy and his family grew up in New York and I feel like I remember him saying in an interview that he remembers being in New York and coming in contact with various characters, if you will, in his home city. This is part of the reason why his characters feel so authentic. Comedians are very perceptive, mostly for jokes, but mostly because they see the world through a different lens than the average person. But back to the movie.

In the Lewis original, his love interest was Stella Purdy, played by Stella Stevens. Murphy, no stranger to beautiful women, said let’s go get Jada Pinkett. This was a year before she was married to Will, for reference. Let me refresh your memory with the work she had already completed. Pinkett had starred in Menace II Society, The Inkwell, Jason’s Lyric, A Low Down Dirty Shame, and in 1996, Set It Off was released. Plus, momma is FINE!! So Pinkett is Carla Purdy in this version.

The Lewis and Murphy versions start to differ in motivations, and what I mean by this is that Kelp’s motivation to create his magic serum is to “beef up.” He’s a scrawny nerd, and when you see him you understand his motivations even more. Sherman Klump is tired of his boss and the people around him treating him less than because he’s fat. In Murphy’s version, they NEED Sherman and his work to keep the funding rolling into the college and yet, his boss treats him like he’s not worthy of the praise he deserves because of his weight. What I love about Murphy’s version is the superb job he does at conveying Klump’s emotion in his face. There are a lot of times in this movie where Murphy doesn’t have to say anything but you can see the real pain in his face.

As I got older and watched this movie over and over, I started to get the message. Self love and self esteem. Sherman is a genius and his weight has nothing to do with that. Carla didn’t go out with Sherman cause she felt sorry for him. She went out with him because she like him, who he was already. His students needed his genius to help them graduate. Dean Richmond, played by Larry Miller who I still don’t like ’til this day because of how mean he was in this movie, needed Sherman’s research to save his ass. What Sherman had to understand was that he was who he was and he was a good man, like his mother told him. He needed to love himself and tune all the other noise out. Many of this struggle with this daily. You’re not going to look like those models or celebrities on IG or in an ad you see on YouTube or in that music video and that’s ok. You are you and you have to be ok with that because if you aren’t then you too will allow people to treat you like they did Sherman at the beginning of this film or Kelp in the original. Everybody has a Buddy Love or a Stefan Urkelle, we just have to dig a little to find them and bring them to the surface every once in a while.

Let’s explore some scenes from the movie, shall we? Below is a fave of me and my mom’s. So much so that we repeat the scene at random times. I’m still sad my friends can recite them with me. I should lose those people. To this day, when I have to explain complex things, I absolutely say, “Let me break it down for all the rich dummies in the house.” Sue me.

There are five people at this table ALL PLAYED BY THE SAME MAN. They all have very distinct personalities and mannerisms. No one person at this table talks or moves like the other which I think is GENIUS. It has to be exhausting to give the same energy to these five people and to be in hours of makeup for each. He never won and Oscar but look how long it took for Leo to get his and let’s not even mention the multiple Oscars Johnny Depp should have. Watch and pay close attention to each person. Also, was this a random Tuesday? Does anyone remember when Roseanne used to come on in ’96 cause that was SO MUCH FOOD for six people on a weekday? I assume the momma didn’t work because she needed hours to cook all this food!

Now, after talking so much about self esteem and loving yourself, I shouldn’t end this post with the most disrespectful set I’ve seen in a movie thus far but this is my blog! I do what I want. LOL. There are few things that make me cry, laugh or can scare me. I have a short list of each and this scene goes on my laugh list. First off, Dave Chappelle is a legend. Let’s begin there and let me tell you why. It has been 24 years since this movie was released and I STILL LAUGH UNTIL I CRY AT THIS SCENE. It is, for me personally, one of the best scenes in a comedy. This man said, “I think I found where they hide Jimmy Hoffa.” Who says that to someone?! Then, he had the nerve to go after Sherman’s date, Carla. If looks could kill because she was NOT happy. If you do nothing else on my blog, please watch the scene below and pay close attention to how Sherman’s demeanor changes as the jokes continue. This is what I was talking about earlier when I said Murphy has the gift of being able to clearly emote through his facial expressions.

Tell me, what was your favorite scene in this movie? My mom loves the dinner scene. Sound off!!

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