Old vs. New: Nutty Professor
March 09, 2010
NC: Hello, I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don’t have to. And welcome to another installment of Old vs. New.
(The title card is shown, featuring an old man crossing his cane with a little boy’s baseball bat, as dramatic music plays and lightning strikes)
NC: Say, what do Eddie Murphy and Jerry Lewis have in common?
NC (voiceover): Well, they both can be comedic geniuses when they’re not being ungodly annoying, but they both had a movie that seemed to define the good chunk of their careers, and they just so happen to be the exact same movie: “The Nutty Professor.”
(The title screens for both movies are shown)
NC (voiceover): Both these films, in many ways, are considered comedy classics, and it's one of the few remakes that’s said to be just as good as the original. But which one is better? Which one has more comedy, better characters, and the better story?
NC: Well, it looks like once again, I’m gonna have to decide, because you mindless apes can’t think for yourselves. This is “Old vs. New: The Nutty Professor.”
(The opening sequence features pictures of the characters from both movies, playing to the theme music from both movies, ending with the title card “Lewis Version vs. Murphy Version”)
NC: Now, the categories on this are gonna be a little condensed, seeing as how there’s no action scenes, villains, and so on and so forth. Also, I’m gonna work backwards. I’m gonna start with story this time, because…in comedies like these, the main character’s the main focus, so…we’ll leave that for the last. Anyway, with all that said, let’s start with Story.
Round 1 - Story Edit
NC (voiceover): Now, of course, the story of “The Nutty Professor” is a retelling of the classic “Jekyll and Hyde,” except here, it’s played up for laughs. A goofy scientist creates a potion that transforms him into the exact opposite of what he is. So, instead of being awkward, nerdy and not good-looking, he’s the suave, cool and attractive swinger named Buddy Love. But he also turns into a jerk, hurting others to make himself feel better and caring about nothing except himself. The new version is pretty much the same outline, except for a few big differences, and I mean big. Instead of making Eddie Murphy into just a nerdy scientist, they added a couple hundred pounds to him as well, adding even more to how socially unpopular he can be. This works a little better when it comes to why the professor wants to transform. In the original, he’s sort of beat up by one of the students, which, I gotta admit, the idea alone on that is pretty funny. But here, it’s played up a little bit more for laughs. In the new one, he’s heckled by a comedian, played by Dave Chappelle, and even though the jokes made are funny as well, you really feel the heartbreak he’s going through, as he’s publicly laughed at and humiliated in front of his date.
Reggie Warrington (the standup comedian in the Murphy Version): Boy’s so fat, every time he turns around, it’s his birthday! He must be on that new diet, Slim Slow! I bet I cut his fat ass open, it’d bleed chocolate milk! Ha-ha! Now we know what’s eating Gilbert Grape, don't we?!
(As Reggie tells the jokes, the camera slowly zooms in on Klump, who has nothing but embarrassment and humiliation written all over his face)
NC: (sobs) I haven’t seen something so hard to watch since Benzai videotaped himself shaving his pubic hair. (A clip of Benzai doing so with a smile on his face is shown) NO! GOD! GET IT OFFSCREEN! (closes his eyes in disbelief) Jesus!
NC (voiceover): Now, both versions take advantage of the split personality. In the Lewis version, his personalities are constantly crossing over, making for some awkward moments, which I have to admit, are handled a little better than in the Murphy version. In the Murphy version, he starts to cross over, too, but it’s only right before he switches back, and even then, he tries to make an excuse for it.
Carla Purty (Murphy version): (notice’s Buddy Love’s lips are swelling, meaning that the potion is wearing off) Your lip is swollen.
Buddy Love (Murphy version): Ooh, my lip. Uhh, that happens every time I…what kind of lipstick do you have on?
Carla Purty (Murphy version): Chanel.
Buddy Love (Murphy version): Oh, yeah, it happens every time I have Chanel lipstick on my lips. (quickly hands some cash to her) You have to go catch a cab and, uhm, I gotta go to the drugstore and get some Benadryl and, uh, Kaopectate. Excuse me, have a pleasant evening. Bye-bye! (dashes off)
NC (voiceover): In the Lewis version, it’s a little different.
Buddy Love (Lewis version): (to his date Stella Purdy) Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to get you to understand. (his voice reverts to the nerdy Professor’s voice) Actually, I’ve never had a…uh, what I mean is, uh…(bolts and leaps over a rock)
NC (voiceover): That is hilarious. There’s no explanation, no excuse, he just bolts. That’s funny as hell. In fact, I was impressed at just how unpredictable the Lewis version was. It didn’t always follow the traditional comedic story. It actually throws you for a few loops. The Murphy version is a bit more traditional. The geek is in love with a beautiful woman, she finds him awkwardly charming, but some misunderstanding takes place where she suddenly hates him. I really hate those misunderstandings; they just slow things down. You know he’s gonna get her in the end anyway, so why waste our time? In the original, though, we get a lot more unexpected stuff. For example, when he first takes the potion, you’d expect him to start looking suave and good-looking, but instead…
(The Professor in the Lewis version drinks the potion and transforms, starting with what looks like a hairy arm grabbing the wall)
NC (voiceover): (laughs) What the hell? How funny is that? He actually turns into a monster first, actually making it look like they're gonna go for the traditional Jekyll and Hyde story. And then, from his point of view, we see everybody staring at him like he’s something they’ve never seen before, only to find out that by this point, he’s transformed into the swinger Buddy Love. So they weren’t looking at him out of fear, they’re looking at him because they were so blown away by his coolness. That’s really clever. But sadly, a lot of these comedic stunts don’t always add up in accordance to the story. For example, how come he never goes through that transformation scene again? He just appears as Buddy Love from then on. Also, there’s jokes like this that don’t really fit into the tone the film is trying to create.
Fitness trainer (Lewis version): Here, enjoy yourself. (hands the Professor a heavy barbell)
(The Professor tries to lift the barbell, but loses his strength and lets it fall to the floor, allowing his arms to stretch while he’s still holding onto the barbell)
NC (voiceover): That’s a cute sort of cartoony joke, but there’s never any other jokes like it, so it’s sort of out of place. There’s a couple jokes like that, some of them just don’t fit in as well as you think they would. Plus, there’s just some weird scenes like this where the girlfriend would just go out of focus.
Stella Purdy (Lewis version): (speaks while the camera looks out of focus)…just generally got acquainted.
NC (voiceover): (confused) Why?? Is her hotness just breaking the fabric of space and time? You could argue that it’s supposed to be symbolic, but this is a Jerry Lewis movie, not “Eraserhead,” though Lord knows, he does sort of look like that woman with the chipmunk cheeks. Also, I never quite got the ending to this movie. He makes a big, really well put together speech about being yourself just as he’s being exposed to everybody. Yet later, it looks like the girlfriend sneaks a couple of bottles of the formula for herself. Is she gonna sell ‘em? Is she gonna use them on Lewis again? Either way, doesn’t that sort of go against the moral and the characters of the story for that matter? They just never ever make this clear.
NC: Explain, movie! EXPLAIN! (a tiny explosion is ignited on his head in a callback to his “Quest for Camelot” review) Oh, good, that was just a little one.
NC (voiceover): For as more conventional as the new one is, it does keep everything on the same tune. It knows what kind of movie it’s trying to get across, and it keeps it all on the same level. Both films are very hit and miss when it comes to their jokes, in my opinion, but when they work, they really work. But the new one seems to tie them together a little better, and while I admire the original for taking risks and trying all sorts of various jokes, the jokes are just all over the place and don’t always have focus. Tough call, but I am gonna go with the Eddie Murphy version. It’s just more focused and knows what it wants to be.
NC: Point goes to the new.
Sherman Klump (Professor in the Murphy version): Well, thank you very much! I’m fatter…uhh, flattered!
Round 1 Winner: Murphy Version
NC: Now as funny as the main characters are, the supporting cast is the only thing that can make them funnier, and both these movies had a really funny supporting cast. Here they are.
Round 2 - Supporting Cast Edit
NC (voiceover): First, let’s take a look at the love interest. In the original, the professor falls in love with one of his students, which I have to admit, is a tad creepy. I dunno, something about a teacher fantasizing about someone supposedly half his age is a little unsettling, like, remember that countdown of the Olsen Twins counting down to when they finally turn 18?
NC: Dude, you knew them when they were troll children! Why would you want to bonk that?
NC (voiceover): And, actually, I use the words “supposedly half his age” because…is it me, or does it look like she’s 30? In fact, all of them look like they're in their 30s! These are college students? They’re about as authentic as the high school students in “90210”, and have about just as many black people in the school, too! The Murphy version was a tad more realistic. I mean, for one, they have black people. Ha-ha. In this one, she was a student, but she was a grad student, as well as serving as a teacher, so you can sort of buy that she would be a little bit older. But now, the downside to her is that the character is a little generic. Not bad or anything, but she just didn’t stick out that much. The Lewis version was a little bit more interesting. She was a no-nonsense gal who was direct and always spoke her mind. And even though she hated Buddy Love, there was something that drew her into him, which even she herself can’t explain. I kinda like this, because we don’t know if it’s Buddy’s charm that draws her in, or the fact that she sees a little bit of the professor in him. Either way, it makes the story much more interesting. How about the bully? Again, in both versions, they’re both hilarious, but Dave Chappelle gets a lot more screen-time, and is, thus, allowed to be a lot more funny. Plus, is it me, or is this the best revenge in the history of revenges?
Buddy Love (Murphy version): (to Reggie the comedian) You’re so funny the way you take a person’s personal defect and flip it around. That’d even work with me doin’ it to you, Reggie. Look at Reggie’s gums and teeth, look like his mother had an affair with Mr. Ed. (the audience laughs before Buddy goes up on stage) Reggie’s momma is so fat, her blood type is Rocky Road! (he takes Reggie and bangs his head on the grand piano) Ladies and gentlemen, Reggie has left the building! (he throws Reggie into the grand piano)
NC (voiceover): Now, be honest. Don’t some of you wish you could do this to Dave Chappelle?
NC: (pretends to bang Dave Chappelle’s head on the table after each sentence) How dare you leave "The Chappelle Show"? That show was in its prime! How dare you only give us a few seasons, you damn comedic genius?! (Continues to bang Chappelle’s “head” on the table while pretending to cry)
NC (voiceover): But I have to admit, the bully from the original is pretty funny, too. It’s just so strange how a student would abuse a teacher like this.
Bully (Lewis version): (to the professor) And that wasn’t very nice when you said that my practice was stupid.
Professor Julius Kelp (Lewis version): No, I might have meant that I was stupid in the assuming that that practice was stupid…
Bully (Lewis version): (pokes the professor on the nose on each spoken word) Naughty…naughty…naughty…
Professor (Lewis version): Now-
Bully (Lewis version): Teacher! (picks up the professor to bring over to the storage closet)
Professor (Lewis version): Well, no, you shouldn’t be upset. The work—You must realize that…you must realize what you just did to your—(is stuffed into his storage closet)
NC (voiceover): But his revenge is only reduced to a talking down to, and that’s not nearly as funny. Chappelle is obviously the funnier guy here. But for me, the most hilarious character is the Dean from the original. I just love how stereotypically white he is. This is the over-the-top tight-ass who always wants everything to run smoothly.
Dean (Lewis version): Do you happen to recall what that additive was?
Professor (Lewis version): A nitroglycerin.
Dean (Lewis version): The results were…?
Professor (Lewis version): Negative.
Dean (Lewis version): And…?
Professor (Lewis version): Noisy.
Dean (Lewis version): (slams his palms on his desk) NOISY?
NC (voiceover): We’ve seen this character a dozen other times in a lot of other films, but the timing and exaggerated delivery this guy has just makes him unbelievably funny. The Dean in the other movie is good, too, and he certainly has his strong moments.
Dean (Murphy version): Comfy?
Professor Sherman Klump (Murphy version): Quite.
Dean (Murphy version): Anything I can get for you? Juice? Coffee? Rack of lamb?
NC (voiceover): But this guy (Lewis version) is just so memorable. Watch how quickly he switches moods.
Professor (Lewis version): I saw young Phipps the other day. You recall Arnold Phipps was in my class that day?
Dean (Lewis version): (laughs) Oh, yes! Really? What’d he have to say?
Professor (Lewis version): I said he’s feeling much better and that the bandages should be off in about two weeks.
Dean (Lewis version): Oh, well, a couple of-(points to the professor quickly) EXACTLY! That’s exactly what I mean! You are a menace.
NC (voiceover): That was, like, a millisecond, and that’s funny as hell. Now, some of you might be wondering about the family in the newer version, who’s all played by Eddie Murphy*. It’s hard to say whether or not I should include them, seeing how they’re all the same person. I don't know, I think it’s sort of cheating to include them, personally. But even if I did include them, I would still lean towards the Lewis version. As funny as they are, they seem a little bit more distracting than they do helping. I mean, it is humorous, but not hilarious. I’m just admiring the effects more than I am the actual comedy. With that said, I have to lean towards the Lewis version, because even though they have fewer characters than the Murphy version, they’re still so damn memorable. And don’t get me wrong; the ones in the Murphy version are, too, but these characters seem to be written a little tighter and are a little bit more direct, which means you get a lot more comedy out of them and at a faster pace, though, I guess logically, that means they do a better job at participating to the humor of the film. And that gets my vote.
- (Except for Ernie Klump Jr., played by Jamal Mixon)
NC: Point goes to the Lewis version.
Professor (Lewis version): What’s right is right.
Round 2 Winner: Lewis Version
NC: And now for the big deciding point: the comedic lead. Which one of these guys was not only funnier, but had a lot more heart in his character? This is the main lead.
Round 3 - Main Lead Edit
NC (voiceover): This is another one that’s hard to choose, because both these guys are hilarious in their own right. They can get a little grating at times, but for the most part, they’re just gold. But we’ve got to make a decision here, so let’s start with both of them as the professor. Both Murphy and Lewis do a great job creating these innocent yet socially unpopular people. Lewis focuses more on the goofiness of the character…
Professor (Lewis version): (to his students after being stuffed in his storage closet) Well, don’t just do something. Sit there! Err, that is, uhh…class dismissed!
NC (voiceover): …while Murphy focuses more on the fragile human side.
Professor (Murphy version): (after his belly brushed against the writing on the chalkboard) I seemed to have messed myself. I mean, I haven’t really messed myself. I mean, I messed up my shirt. (his class laughs before the bell rings)
NC (voiceover): But to be fair, that’s not to say Lewis doesn’t at times either. Like I said, his ending speech I think is one of the most vulnerable moments ever put on film. And because he doesn’t have to wear a fat suit, he’s also allowed to do a lot more fast, physical humor. There’s physical humor in the new version as well, but it’s mostly special effects related. Now, granted, Lewis’s voice can get pretty annoying at times.
Professor (Lewis version): Now that you bring it up, uh, the additive was, uh, specifically a three parts carbon, five parts hydrogen, one part nitrogen and three parts oxygen.
NC: (scoffs) Thank God we never saw Jerry Lewis’ extended family in this version.
(A scene with the Klump family in the Murphy version is shown with the Photoshopped head of Lewis’ professor put on each family member and yakking away with NC's voice)
NC (voiceover): But then again, I guess the professor's voice is supposed to be a little annoying. That was sort of the idea. And it never does shadow the kind hopelessness that the character possesses. I don’t know. For me, it’s kind of a tie, as I feel really sorry for both of them, and yet I also find them both incredibly funny. But let’s take a look at the other persona, Buddy Love. These two couldn’t be more different. Lewis plays him as the smooth swinger who acts like nothing impresses him.
Buddy Love (Lewis version): (to Stella while dancing together) I know what you’re thinkin’. “Where’s he been all my life?” right?
NC (voiceover): Murphy plays him like an eccentric billionaire who can do whatever he wanted and enjoys every second of it.
Buddy Love (Murphy version): Take a break, Nigger-ace. Take the Everly Brothers with you. Come on, it’s showtime!
NC (voiceover): But this is where I really have my problem. And believe it or not, it’s not with the Murphy version; it’s with Lewis’s. I know what he’s trying to do, sort of a satire of Dean Martin, playing it so cool that he’s able to get away with murder. The thing is, though, that I buy the part of him that’s supposed be a jerk, but I don’t buy the part about him being suave. He just seems like a rich asshole. There’s nothing charming about him at all, which is weird. He’s a good singer, fancy dresser, can defend for himself…even if he does punch like a girl…so what’s wrong with him? I think this comes from the fact that nothing about him seems confident. It seems like an act. Whenever I look at him, I feel like, here’s an insecure douche who’s trying to look like a not-insecure douche, and yet still comes across...as an insecure douche…douche.
Bartender (Lewis version): What’ll it be?
Buddy Love (Lewis version): Aww, that’s no way to talk. (clicks his tongue at the bartender) “What’ll it be?”
NC (voiceover): And don’t get me wrong, Murphy's version is a douche, too, but at least he has a lust for life. He enjoys everything. He’s the kind of person you want to go partying with. You can understand why people would want to be around him. And if he hurt your feelings or anyone else’s feelings, hell, at least you had a lot of fun through it! I don’t get that with Lewis. It seems like a wimp who's trying to act like a tough guy, and that shouldn’t be. Everything about him is written right, and I love the way he just appears in the room. You ever notice that? He never walks in; he just sort of appears. But I just never believed he was a cool jerk. Now, there’s lots of people that can pull off the cool jerk and still seem confident, like Jack Nicholson, Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, that…bitch from “Peanuts,” but I never got it out of Lewis. Murphy’s version, while certainly wild and over-the-top, still seemed likeable, even when he was doing horrible things. Tough to say because I love both versions of the professor so much, but I think Murphy’s is just a little bit more believable, and therefore, more identifiable, even if he is a wild pain. And like I said, I love both of these movies a lot, but if you had to twist my arm and force me to choose, I’d have to go with the newer version, mostly because Murphy’s characters just seem more complete. And on top of that, the film just seems more focused. True, there are many moments in the old that are funnier, and if it hadn’t been for the original version, this one wouldn’t even exist, but this just seems like the more complete film, and it gets my vote as the better movie.
NC: The Eddie Murphy version, the superior comedy.
Mama Klump (Murphy version): (after Ernie Klump Jr. shows off his biceps and claps for joy) Ohh, Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!
Round 3 Winner: Murphy Version
NC: And that’s my Old vs. New on “The Nutty Professor” movies. I hope you liked this show, and…(his phone rings, and he checks on it before sighing) The parents of that Peppermint Patty kid. Guess they didn’t like what I said about their daughter. (answers his phone) Hello? (the voice on the other end of the phone takes the form of a trumpet “wah-wahs” like Mrs. Othmar in the “Charlie Brown” cartoons) What? I can’t understand you! Why don’t you stop blowing a horn and fucking talk to me? W-Who does that?! Who talks to people that’s a horn?! Wh—OK, you’re really freaking me out now. Stop it! Stop doing that! No, speak English to me! Don’t—hold on. (to the camera) I’m the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don’t have to. (continues talking on the phone while getting up to leave) Who does that? Who talks through a fucking horn? Hold on, let me get my clarinet. We can have a proper conversation. SHUT UP!
Channel Awesome Tagline—Mama Klump (Murphy version): Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!