- The Washington Times - Friday, July 28, 2000

The reigning status word in Washington political parlance, "gravitas," doesn't lend itself easily to a review of "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps."

I take consolation in the fact that this strenuously farcical sequel to the deserving Eddie Murphy hit of 1996 might be described as an unrelenting exercise in "levitas."

Unfortunately, the levity proves so thick that it's difficult to feel that the sequel duplicates the predecessor's humorous freshness and aptitude. "The Nutty Professor" of 1996 proved a rollicking improvement on Jerry Lewis' Jekyll-and-Hyde brainstorm of 1963. It also seemed the best Eddie Murphy vehicle in about a dozen years.

Mr. Murphy shoulders the same number of characterizations in the new movie: five members of the heavyweight Klump family plus the demonic usurper Buddy Love, alter ego of the sweet-natured hero, a 400-pound science professor named Sherman Klump.

In fact, Buddy makes his initial appearance with obscene promptness in the prologue, a wedding-day dream attributed to Sherman, whose fiancee is a college colleague, Denise, played by Janet Jackson.

As the ceremony nears its climax, Buddy's cackling head pops out of the bridegroom's trousers. While his later entrances are less humiliating, the first one sets a tone that seems to preoccupy the writers.

They struggle to pretend that Buddy remains an uncontrollable aspect of Sherman's psyche, an issue that was resolved as well as it needed to be in the original film.

To overcompensate, Buddy is cut free, courtesy of scientific overreaching: Sherman goes into the lab, isolates his alter ego on the DNA chain and distills it into a beaker of goo, which gets loose when a pet dog is allowed the run of the lab and conveniently breaks stuff.

If this sounds overcalculated, it plays that way as well.

The novelty element of the sequel is that Sherman's efforts to corral Buddy become more incidental than primary, because the roles of other Klumps have been beefed up. Notably Granny, who probably should be envisioned as the one who neutralizes Buddy, because she tries to seduce him at every far-fetched opportunity.

The collaborators are so shameless that they finally stage an entrapment scene in a hot tub. The problem with this subplot conceptually is that the movie seems to have given Granny an earlier excuse for smug contentment: a spindly boyfriend called Isaac, impersonated to deadpan, diminutive perfection by Gabriel Williams, evidently a non-pro.

The idea of this geriatric match is so weirdly sublime that it seems rather superfluous and self-defeating to be arranging trysts for a terrified Buddy and lascivious Granny. For comic purposes, she already has a dream consort in Isaac.

An expendable subplot sends Papa Klump off to a saloon for minor carousing after he swallows some of Sherman's youth serum, envisioned as a gold mine for both inventor and school sometime after the fade-out.

As the avaricious dean of apocryphal Wellman College in Southern California, Larry Miller comes in for extravagantly irrelevant abuse: sexual assault by a giant hamster.

You begin to get the impression that "The Klumps" needs more giant rampaging hamsters and needs them more than it needs the title characters.

The beauty of the original setup was that it allowed Mr. Murphy to embody a sweetheart in Sherman, kid his own youthful hedonism as Buddy and play around with additional disguises as Mama, Papa, Granny and surly brother Ernie, who still must be a project because he doesn't get his own subplot in the sequel.

Maybe the formula was as savory as possible the first time around. It seems to go stale in this variation.

One and 1/2 out of four stars

TITLE: "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"

RATING: PG-13 (Frequent comic and sexual vulgarity)

CREDITS: Directed by Peter Segal

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

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