There seems to be some confusion over the title of this 2008 direct to video release. The release is simply called The Nutty Professor, like the original Jerry Lewis vehicle from 1963. It appears the working title of the film was The Nutty Professor 2: Facing The Fear. It is still listed under that title in the IMDB. Whatever the title, you should know that this isn’t your father’s Nutty Professor. This version is a CG animation feature, but don’t expect Shrek or Pixar quality work here. It’s a considerably lower budget affair, and that shows pretty clearly in the final product.
Jerry Lewis returns to his iconic role of Julius Kelp, the nerdy and often clumsy scientist who discovered a formula that could bring out a person’s inner strength. The result was a take on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde theme. This time the Hyde character was a suave sophisticated opposite of the ordinarily awkward Professor Kelp. Of course, like Mr. Hyde, the alter-ego caused a fair share of trouble. It’s many years later, and we are introduced to young Harold Kelp, the grandson of the previous professor. Harold is just as socially awkward and shares the brilliant mind of his famous grandfather. His inventions, however, tend to fall just shy of hitting their mark, and as our film opens the neighbors have formed an angry mob, complete with a torch, to do something about his menacing inventions. Just as they close in, however, young Kelp gets an acceptance letter from the great
This film will likely appeal to youngsters on one level or another, but it will fall quite flat for anyone expecting to be taken back to 1963 and the original film experience. This film is so loaded with a lot predictable contrivances that it just won’t wear well for the adults. The final confrontation is completely silly and makes little to no sense. It’s a video game kind of battle that might have been better fit for an old Atari 2600. Drake Bell offers the voice for Harold/Jack. He’s fine, but there isn’t anything dynamic in his portrayal to make the character any more interesting. Jerry Lewis does bridge the two ideas together by providing the voice to the character, but it wasn’t really his voice that made him so successful. Lewis was every bit the physical comic. In this CG environment a rendered character just can’t mimic the antics that made Lewis so funny. Even the distinctive qualities of his voice are gone, covered by decades of age on the actor. On its own this is a fair to mediocre piece of child entertainment. If you compare it to the original, it is something significantly less.
The box art declares this a standard format presentation. Happily it is not. I was pretty surprised that something this new would be rendered in a full frame format and was pleasantly surprised to find that it really is a 1.78:1 widescreen presentation. Perhaps there is a television version that really is 1.33:1, I don’t know. The picture is pretty good for what it is. Colors pop, and the sharpness is razor. Still, the animation is pretty weak and doesn’t provide enough power for this good transfer to take advantage of it. Black levels are fair. I was a little disappointed in the contrast, however. It seems that light and dark scenes have little variance. This is likely the fault of a low budget rendering and a limited variance of environments.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is pretty tame. There are some very wild things going on during the film, but this mix fails to deliver any of that in the sound. You can hear the dialog and that’s about it. This might as well have been a simple 2.0 presentation for all you’ll get out of it. Again, perhaps the kids don’t care. Fair enough, but why bother with the 5.1 mix at all, then?
The Science In Animating The Nutty Professor: This 14 minute feature mostly deals with the team that animated the film. There’s plenty of conceptual design here as well as crude early stages of animation. Lewis himself adds to the whole here, offering some nice interview clips. A lot of it is an understandable Lewis love fest from the rest of the cast and crew.
It’s been a long while since I saw the original film. I remember it did contain plenty of laughs, however. These laughs are really missing everywhere in this CG creation. Let’s not even talk about the fatty Eddie Murphy films that might have ruined that franchise forever. At least here we return to the original concepts, if only to serve an oversimplified, face your fears, moral. So, what does it bring to the franchise? “No idea.”