Eddie Murphy is back in college, but his Nutty Professor II: The Klumps suffers from a serious case of sophomore slump. The last time we saw Professor Sherman Klump, in 1996's The Nutty Professor, he'd invented a formula that jiggered fat people's DNA to make them thin. Despairing at how his girth kept him from romance, Sherman downed a vial of the brewwhich made him skinny indeed, but also transformed the sweet-souled researcher into his obnoxious, testosterone-fueled alter ego, Buddy Love. The movie's big conceit, though, was Murphyin elaborate fat prostheticsplaying five members of the garrulous, overweight Klump family. Their profane dinner repartee was often hilarious.
This time around, Sherman has invented a fountain-of-youth potion, which the college dean wants to sell to raise cash. After a lab accident, Buddy Love springs free of Sherman's body and plots his own scheme to peddle the concoctioncausing mayhem for the school and derailing Sherman's relationship with new girlfriend Denise (a dewy Janet Jackson). Meanwhile, Sherman's family carries on its ribald ways, complicated by Papa Klump's ingestion of some of Sherman's secret sauce (which looks suspiciously like the cough syrup I've been swilling all week).
Murphy's first Nutty Professor was a funny, even charming effort. Sherman was a surprisingly sympathetic creature, his family an entertaining dystopia. Murphy's new chronicle of higher education is pitched louder and cruder, but to much less effect. The Klumps are still an amusing crew, but the gag gets tired despite Murphy's wonderful multiple-personality theatrics. Swamped by tit jokes and a numbingly busy plot, Sherman's romantic woes only seem saccharine here, not endearing.
Please note that The Klumps depicts a staple of faculty life rarely written up in Lingua Franca: anal rape by giant hamster. Department chairs may wince, but the eight-year-old sitting next to me found it especially droll.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.