Facing the Fear

I’ll bet you didn’t know yet another version of The Nutty Professor was made. Well I’m probably one of very few reviewers whose actually heard of the movie. A 2008 direct-to-video computer animated movie about the grandson of Professor Julius Kelp. From all the way back in the 1963 original. No connection to Eddie Murphy. The Nutty Professor (2008) takes Harold Kelp to a futuristic academy attended by robots, aliens, and his grandfather. From there they just redo the serum plot with Harold taking it (only with more extreme sports). Professor Kelp is also somehow able to become Buddy Love at will. The only part that’s different is something involving a fear monster. Unlike Jimmy Neutron, this computer animated boy genius is neither funny nor interesting. The animation is very poorly rendered and I have serious doubts that its target demographic has ever seen the 60’s classic. I know Drake Bell is willing to do just about anything nowadays, but I have no idea why Jerry Lewis said yes to this. Even if his voice is just as goofy as ever. The Nutty Professor (2008) serves a clear reminder to just watch the original.

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Harold Kelp speaks with his Grandfather

A Very Gassy Family

Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is just an excuse to show off Eddie Murphy’s ability to play several characters at once. As well as the still impressive makeup used to bring the Klumps to life. Which is why the large and in charge family is given way more attention. Even when it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot. Since learning to accept his weight, Professor Klump is finally ready to marry Denise. Despite her importance Jada Pinkett was too busy getting Smithed to return. So instead Janet Jackson plays his love interest/fiancé. Among many other plot points, Sherman invents a youth serum, he has Buddy Love extracted from his body, he gets progressively dumber, Buddy takes on the traits of a dog, Papa Klump can’t satisfy his wife so he takes the serum, and Granny comes onto Buddy. While the first movie had its fair share of gross out moments, The Klumps is far too reliant on them. The most disgusting has to be the one involving the Dean and a giant hamster. Not to mention all the recycled jokes like Sherman’s nightmare or farting at dinner. Although Murphy’s inevitable decline started to show, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps is nevertheless funny enough as a feature length version of the family dinner scene.

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The Klumps prepare to eat

Preceded by: The Nutty Professor (1996)

From Fat to Fit

The Nutty Professor (1996) is the even bigger remake of the 1963 original. In more ways than one. It’s also the version I mostly grew up on. Rather than just redo what came before, Jerry Lewis gave Eddie Murphy the ok to put his own personal stamp on the remake. So instead of being too nerdy, Professor Sherman Klump has a weight problem. Despite his attempts to lose weight and gain self confidence, hecklers like Dave Chappelle keep reminding him how he looks. So Professor Klump mixes a serum that allows him to lose all his weight. This Buddy Love is athletic and confident enough to ask out Carla Purty. She’s now a chemistry graduate played by Jada Pinkett before she got Smithed. The Nutty Professor (1996) is the perfect display of Eddie Murphy’s comedic range. As he plays a grand total of 7 different characters. All accomplished with Academy Award winning makeup and fat suits. Murphy plays the kind hearted Professor, the loud and aggressive Buddy, his flatulent father, his cheerful mother (“Hercules, Hercules, Hercules”), his sex obsessed grandmother, his tough brother, and even a parody of Richard Simmons. The dinner scene is the funniest scene in the movie. It can get a little gross at times, but it’s still one of the only fart jokes I laugh at. Instead of the truth coming out at a dance, Buddy is instead brought to a science demonstration by the hilarious Dean. After a bizarre body changing sequence Sherman gives a similar speech about accepting oneself. The Nutty Professor (1996) is definitely a nuttier remake that’s just as funny as the original.

THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, Jada Pinkett, Eddie Murphy, 1996, (c)Universal Pictures/courtesy Everett Collec

Professor Sherman Klump and Ms. Purty dine at The Scream

Remake of: The Nutty Professor (1963) & Followed by: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps

From Nerd to Casanova

The Nutty Professor is the screwball classic from comedy legend Jerry Lewis. A comedian known for his wacky jokes and outlandish style. Although he did several films in his career (many with partner Dean Martin), The Nutty Professor will always be his magnum opus. My mom introduced the movie to us for that very reason. Since it was the version she grew up on. Professor Julius Kelp is an accident-prone, unattractive, buck-toothed, bespectacled nerd. His goofy voice lead to the creation of Professor Frink on The Simpsons. Jerry Lewis does the perfect amount of physical comedy in Kelp’s attempt at becoming less of a pushover. Despite warnings from his bird Jennifer, Professor Kelp mixes a serum that turns him into a hideous monster… just kidding. He actually turns into the charming crooner Buddy Love. Finally giving him the confidence to pursue his student Stella Purdy. She’s a nice lady, but a college professor dating a student may not work today. The only problem is Buddy is a rude, manipulative, egomaniac. Yet the kids down at The Purple Pit can’t get enough of him. He’s even asked to perform at the school dance. Which Buddy accepts after humiliating the Dean. It’s of course at the dance where the big secret comes out. For all its hilarious circumstances, Kelp’s final speech about loving yourself is very genuine. If you only see one Jerry Lewis performance, make it The Nutty Professor.

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Professor Julius Kelp experiments

A Bit Rusty

Vacation is not family fun time. It’s every bit the exhausting experience a trip like this would be. Since I watched the entire franchise beforehand, I considered seeing it in theaters. I’m glad I didn’t because most comedies nowadays lack what made classic comedies so good. Vacation is a cross between a remake and a sequel. Only now Rusty Griswold is the focus. Now played by the somewhat more high profile comedian Ed Helms. Rather than be more unique, Rusty is just a less funny version of his father. Only a lot more lame. His wife is kind of a terrible person, his son is a passive wimp, and his other son is just a bully. This Griswold family lacks the heart that made the original family so likable. Their vacation is exactly the same as the first movie. Walley World is just more advanced and open. Of course Audrey appears for a short while. Now played by comedian Leslie Mann. Chris Hemsworth once again proves to be the funniest guy in the movie playing Audrey’s husband. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo also make really cringy cameos that seemed like they were forced to do it. My biggest problem with Vacation however, is what they do with its R rating. Like most modern comedies, they feel excessive swearing, unsexy nudity, gross out humor, and unrealistic violence is the way to go. For that I’m mainly referring to the Christie Brinkley homage. Vacation has its moments, but for the most part it’s an unbearable ride to sit through.

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The Griswold’s hit the road

Reboot of: National Lampoon’s Vacation

Christmas on the Island

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure is how you spoil a good thing. Cousin Eddie was always a good source of comedy in the Vacation series. From his humble introduction to his scene stealing return, Randy Quaid made him the annoying relative we all love to hate. Now it’s just hate when he gets his own spin-off TV movie that has no reason to exist. It’s also some sort of sequel due to the success of Christmas Vacation. Christmas Vacation 2 takes the Johnson’s out of the RV and into suburbia. With yet another revolving door of kids. Cousin Eddie is apparently dumber than a monkey, so he’s given a free tropical vacation. He brings wife Catherine, the kids I mentioned, an Uncle, and Audrey Griswold. Dana Barron finally gets a chance to return after the recast rule was established. Good for her since she was kind of given the short end of the stick. If only it was in a better movie. The Johnson’s, along with a hot tour guide, get shipwreck on an island near Christmastime. What follows is one unfunny gag after another. Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure should have remained on the island.

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Cousin Eddie and his family get stranded on an island

Spin-off of: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswold’s Are Going to Vegas

Vegas Vacation is just a lazy vacation nobody asked for. Out of the four Vacation movies, this is the only one to be neither written by John Hughes nor have National Lampoon in its title. The biggest problem is a lack of originality and tired performances. Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo aren’t trying nearly as hard as before. Plus the idea of taking the Griswold’s to Las Vegas could’ve had potential in a better movie. Specifically one with an R rating. It made sense to make Christmas Vacation PG-13 (still don’t get European Vacation), but Vegas Vacation is PG for crying out loud. Vegas is full of nudity, drugs, and/or debauchery. Really it’s the only installment that would’ve made sense with an R rating. Instead Clark, Ellen, and the kids are just sorta hanging out doing their own misadventures. Clark loses money, Ellen flirts with Wayne Newton, Rusty gets lucky, and Audrey wants to be a stripper or something. Cousin Eddie also returns in a less memorable way. Although I will say that I appreciate the joke about Clark hardly recognizing the kids. Now played by Ethan Embry and Marisol Nichols. Plus Christie Brinkley returns for a cameo. The rest of Vegas Vacation is not worth the trip.

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The Griswold’s spend in Vegas

Preceded by: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswold’s Are Staying Home for Christmas

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a christmas classic all on its own. Even though it’s the third installment in the Vacation series, it can easily be viewed every December. Well it’s gonna have to be a Christmas in July for this review. Christmas Vacation is not only the best sequel, it’s also the most unique. While all the other vacations take the Griswolds out of the state (or country), this is the first time they’ve had their vacation at home. Making it the only time we’ve seen the families dysfunctional homelife. The movie’s family friendly PG-13 rating makes a lot more sense for this sequel. Not that there isn’t still plenty of innuendo. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation focuses on Clark’s attempt to make the families Christmas the best ever. Of course that doesn’t work out as expected. Chevy Chase is funnier than ever doing lots of physical comedy and going on epic rants. Beverly D’Angelo also gets more character development. Johnny Galecki and Juliette Lewis now play Rusty and Audrey respectfully. Audrey is more subdued as an uninterest teenager. While Rusty is suddenly much younger. Things get really complicated when the relatives show up. Clark and Ellen’s parents, elderly Aunt and Uncle, and Cousin Eddie and his family. Randy Quaid proves to be even better this time around as the families hick relative. Just don’t give him his own spin-off. Everything goes wrong when they pick out a tree, try to hook up the lights,  the turkey gets burned, things blow up, and Clark’s bonus turns out to be a Jelly of the month membership. There’s also their neighbors that they inadvertently torment. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the perfect combination of family fun and Christmas chaos.

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The Griswold’s celebrate Christmas

Preceded by: National Lampoon’s European Vacation & Followed by: Vegas Vacation

The Griswald’s Are Traveling Europe

National Lampoon’s European Vacation is so forgettable that I very nearly forgot to include it in my marathon viewing of the franchise. Even though the sequel is very much in the same vein as the original. Both deal with the family traveling somewhere in a variety of humorous ways. Only European Vacation is somehow PG-13 despite a bit more nudity. Similar to Amy Heckerling’s other 80’s film Fast Times at Ridgemont High. National Lampoon’s European Vacation sees the Griswald family (now misspelled with an “a”) win a European trip on a game show called “Pig in a Poke.” From there all they do is travel to London, France, West Germany, and Italy. Where they inadvertently destroy many famous monuments. Probably the funniest running gag though is Eric Idle constantly getting injured. Other than that Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo do pretty much the same thing as Clark and Ellen. Mostly just bickering and occasionally getting intimate. This was also the movie that officially began the joke of recasting the kids in every sequel. Anthony Michael Hall got too famous to return. Which meant Dana Barron had to go too. They were replaced by Jason Lively and late voice actress Dana Hill as Rusty and Audrey respectfully. Unfortunately they’re probably the worst interpretation of the kids in the series. Rusty’s only trait is that he’s always horny. While Audrey constantly complains about her boyfriend and has some kind of weight problem. Most of those jokes fall flat. National Lampoon’s European Vacation is basically the same vacation in a slightly more exotic package.

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The Griswald’s explore Europe

Preceded by: National Lampoon’s Vacation & Followed by: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

The Griswold’s Are Going to Walley World

National Lampoon’s Vacation should be a fun family outing, but not when the Griswold’s are involved. After the success of Animal House, humor magazine National Lampoon decided to adapt a short story by John Hughes. Just make Harold Ramis the director and Chevy Chase the star, and you’ve got the recipe for a hilarious 80’s comedy. Appropriately set to the tune of “Holiday Road,” National Lampoon’s Vacation focuses on the Griswold family. The vacation in question is a trip to Walley World. A perfectly legal take on Disneyland. Chase plays the cheerful (borderline psychotic) patriarch that just wants to spend more time with his family before it’s too late. Beverly D’Angelo plays his attractive wife Ellen who spends most of the movie arguing with her husband about his questionable decisions. 80’s “it kid” Anthony Michael Hall and Dana Barron play son Rusty and daughter Audrey respectfully. Rusty just wants to please his father while Audrey is mostly concerned with being cool. As is the case with every road movie, Vacation is more about the journey than the destination. It’s a nightmare that sees them getting robbed, dealing with their country cousins (specifically Cousin Eddie), inadvertently causing the death of their Aunt and dog, crashing their truckster in the desert, and finally making it to Walley World… which is closed. All the while Clark fantasizes about Christie Brinkley driving by in a red convertible. What really makes Vacation so funny is its R rated humor. It may seem family friendly, but Vacation is filled with things like Clark going on profane tirades, topless shots of Ellen, or Clark holding a guard at gunpoint. Scenes like that are what make National Lampoon’s Vacation one of the very best road trip comedies.

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The Griswold’s hit the road

Followed by: National Lampoon’s European Vacation