Thin Story About A Fat Man

Playing the sweet, massive science professor Sherman Klump and his sleek, demonic doppelganger Buddy Love in 1996's "The Nutty Professor," Eddie Murphy took comic chameleonism to some rare, wiggy heights. The frosting on the cake was his all-in-one appearance as the entire Klump clan--lascivious Granny, ebullient Mama, grumpy Pop and grousing Ernie. The Klumps almost stole the picture, so it seemed a great idea to give the whole brood costarring status in the sequel alongside Sherman and Buddy, who are now battling over the profits on Sherman's fountain-of-youth formula.

Well, this time it isn't just Sherman who has swallowed the wrong formula--it's the filmmakers. What was a ragged but often hilarious charmer has been genetically altered into a deafening and desperate mutant. Everything has been ratcheted up six notches. You liked the flatulence in the first movie? When someone passes wind in director Peter Segals's sequel, an entire restaurant catches on fire. A dream sequence that parodies "Armageddon" and "2001" seems to have been included just so "The Blue Danube" waltz can be punctuated with farts. But the result is at least six times less funny than the first.

Murphy is still undeniably amazing. The bizarre thing about "The Klumps" is how little it seems to matter: you can rise only so far over material this base. And the technical difficulties of having to play out scenes entirely with other versions of himself throws the comic timing off. Nothing is allowed to build--every joke, every line, is shot out of a cannon. Add David Newman's arm-twisting score (Laugh, dammit!) and you get a comedy with all the nuance of a jackhammer.

Janet Jackson, smiling prettily, is on hand as Sherman's unlikely girlfriend--but who's paying attention in a movie that throws in a giant mutant hamster to rape the dean of the college? Of course no movie with this much Murphy can be entirely devoid of laughs. His horny grandma--who puts the moves on Buddy--is pretty irresistible. When a dog's DNA gets mixed in with Buddy's (don't ask), I laughed out loud at a couple of Murphy's sudden transformations into compulsive canine behavior. More often, sad to say, it's the movie that's the dog.