The Nutty Professor Screen 9 articles

The Nutty Professor

1963

The Nutty Professor Poster
  • Jerry Lewis's Persona, and in some ways a more honest film (1963). Lewis is Dr. Julius Kelp, an absentminded chemist who invents a potion that turns him into the irresistible Buddy Love, a character bearing a not wholly coincidental resemblance to Dean Martin. Even if you don't find Lewis funny (strangely enough, I sometimes do), The Nutty Professor has to stand as one of the most intense investigations of self ever put on film, a technically impeccable work of inspired megalomania.

  • The Nutty Professor (1963) is one of the finest versions of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story that we have, and not only because it happens to be the funniest. (It’s also the one with the best music: Les Brown’s band, and memorable versions of both “Stella by Starlight” and “That Old Black Magic”.) A good deal subtler than the raucous Eddie Murphy remake (1996), it illustrates the troubling perception that most of us prefer egotistical bullies to shy, sweet-tempered klutzes.

  • The Nutty Professor clearly deserves its central place in the Lewis canon, although I’d emphasise the aspects of the film that make it as uncompromising and uncomfortable as any of his other works: the deliberate unreality, so characteristic of the director, of its depiction of life on a college campus; the refusal to resolve (or to moralise about) the tension between detesting the boorish, egomaniacal Buddy Love and finding him sympathetic.

  • The Nutty Professor‘s supreme triumph is that when Kelp, heartbroken and emotionally naked in front of what might as well be the world, admits that “if you don’t think too much of yourself, how do you expect others to?,” it’s not only a tear-jerking TKO, but also places Lewis’s own fascination with the ravaging effects of his self-inquisitive ego probes into a plain and urgent context.

  • Kelp’s lab cocktail unleashes gooey, malevolent hepcat Buddy Love, habitually seen as a Dino dig, yet closer to a one-man Rat Pack and, since crystallized, to Lewis’ surly, paradoxical id, arrested klutz and vengeful lounge lizard battling for illusory wholeness. "My poor dada," baby Lewis gurgles in his oversized crib as toady father cowers to hulking mother, but the matter is less Freudian than Faustian, of raging hipness at the cost of emotional truth.

  • The Nutty Professor was Lewis’ fourth film behind the camera, and while the three pictures that preceded it are frequently brilliant, The Nutty Professor best reveals what Lewis picked up from Tashlin’s anything-for-a-gag philosophy, as well as what Lewis absorbed from people like Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati... Working with his longtime collaborator Bill Richmond, Lewis constructed one of his sturdiest scripts in The Nutty Professor, and he wasted scarcely a minute of it.

  • “The Nutty Professor” set attendance records for Lewis comedies, and, contrary to popular memory, was taken seriously by critics who were not French... Its greatest comic moment has Mr. Lewis oscillating between the self-abasing Kelp and egotistic Love as he tries to sing “I’m in the Mood For Love.”

  • The film is interesting not simply for its clinical perfection as an illustration of the masculine protest, but for its analysis of the status of the male in culture which points to the inadequacy of the male characters.

  • The idea that we are all roles played clumsily by our fantasies and desires is psychologically corrosive stuff, especially coming from a film as garishly colored as The Nutty Professor. . . . One can debate The Nutty Professor’s merits as comedy (we here at The A.V. Club happen to think it’s pretty damn funny), but it’s definitely art. That’s more than you can say about most serious, Oscar-winning performances.

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