The Nutty Professor (1963)
















"The Nutty Professor" is Jerry Lewis' best attempt at a fairy tale, a moral tale that conveys all the rights elements of a fable. It's a hot mess, but it's also lovable and overstated...but most of all, yes, a hot mess.
Julius Kelp (Jerry Lewis) is a socially awkward professor of chemistry. When he's not trying to blow up the classrooms, he's lisping his way through terrible lectures to students who couldn't care less. The opening scene has him destroying his classroom and the first department rushing in and then tripping up and falling over themselves.
Professor Kelp is sent to the principle, Dr. Warfield (Del Moore), who scolds him for using the lab equipment for personal use. He is slapped on the wrist and told not to do it anymore. Perhaps it's the scolding that puts him in such a foul mood because the next day he yells at a football student for wanting to get out of chemistry class. The jock puts him into the closet, literally. Shoved into the shelves, Professor Kelp dismisses his class; but the beautiful Stella Purdy (Stella Stevens) stays to see if he's okay. Much of the humor of "The Nutty Professor" is physical; but sometimes it just doesn't work because Lewis draws it out too long.
Embarrassed because of how he was manhandled, Kelp finds an article in magazine advertising a gym where he thinks he can bulk up. The trip to the gym doesn't end well and Kelp is still a weakling and a socially unacceptable figure at the end of six months. He decides that he will take up the quest for masculine pulchritude in a different way—through science.
Concocting a brew of various and complicated chemicals, Kelp finds something that will transform him not only in physical appearance but in his mannerisms as well.
"The Nutty Professor" is a nice movie that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously and that we have to love ourselves before anything else. After all, we're going to be spending the rest of our lives with ourselves, we might as well get along with us....there were a lot of pronouns happening in that sentence, but I think we all got the gist.
Lewis is a very funny man, but his comedy is muted here. I think he's funny in his live performances, when he can have free reign of the screen. Scripted Lewis isn't as likable or as funny as unscripted.
The one figure in the movie that is very interesting is Stella Purdy who seems to contradict the stereotype of the typical lead woman in a comedy. She is attracted to intelligence and not macho male posturing.
Then again, when you think back to what the movie is actually saying, no wonder the modern day male has a hard time figuring out how to not be a chauvinist. When there's a hundred years of men deserving women because they're men...there's a lot of room to improve. Yet I appreciate the sentiment of the movie nonetheless.
Shot in bright colors and with lots of overacting, there are moments of the film that work very well like a transformation scene that seems to be mocking the monster movies of decades prior; but there are moments that don't work like a talking bird eating a complicated formula.
"The Nutty Professor" has everything typical in it and not quite enough to make it special.









Score: ★★½

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