Magazine article The Spectator

Fat Is Funny

Magazine article The Spectator

Fat Is Funny

Article excerpt

Call it Eddie Murphy's law: just when it's assumed that everything you do is bound to bellyflop, you manage to get something right. Eddie Murphy, widely written off in Hollywood as a clapped-out Eighties no-hoper with a one-way ticket on the oblivion express, has managed to turn in the season's most likeable comedy.

His vehicle is a remake - of the Jerry Lewis film The Nutty Professor, itself the umpteenth variation on Jekyll and Hyde. In the Lewis version, Jerry played the dork from the science lab who drains the magic phial and is transformed into a smoothly purring swinger - Dr Jerk and Mister Hep. Dating from Jerry's 'Genius' period, the Lewis Professor isn't really a comedy. Rather, Jerry seemed to be exorcising some personal demons still hanging around from his acrimonious split with Dean Martin. In the Martin and Lewis partnership, Jerry wrote all the material, handled all the business and admin, worked his butt off; Dean turned up, drawled a ballad or two and then went off and pulled all the babes. You could read the Lewis film as a parable of double-acts: in essence, he starts out as Jerry but wants to be transformed into Dino.

At first glance, the Eddie Murphy Nutty Professor would seem to be a crass reduction of the deep psychological currents swirling round the Lewis version: Murphy's Professor Sherman Klump is a 300 lb lardbutt, a wobbling mountain of cellulite, who yearns to be thin; there is an extensive mass flatulence scene. But Lewis, credited on the remake as Executive Producer, must have sensed something more going on. Professor Klump pines for the beautiful Carla, but, on their first date at a trendy nightspot, the stand-up comic uses him as the butt for all his butt jokes. Humiliated and frustrated, Sherman comes up with a formula that transforms him into Buddy Love, a sleek black superstud in buttockhugging cycling shorts, with a flashing smile and a tongue so slick other guys don't stand a chance. In other words, he turns into Eddie Murphy. Or, in other other words, the big difference between the Lewis and Murphy versions is this: the Jerry character was Dr Jekyll, the Eddie character is Mr Hyde.

At first, everything's OK. As Buddy Love, Sherman takes Carla back to the club and exacts a ferocious revenge on the comic who'd abused him the night before. It's a Murphy tour de force, culminating in an impromptu rendition of Minnie Riperton's 'Loving You (Is Easy 'Cause You're Beautiful)', with the petrified, half-strangled stand-up providing the falsetto. …

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