It's Jim Carrey who's supposed to be the new Jerry Lewis. But this reworking (from Ace Ventura's Shadyac) of Lewis' wildest comic favourite has Eddie Murphy giving his funniest performance (actually, make that seven performances) in over a decade, and positioning himself strongly to reclaim his crown as comedy's box office king. The lesson to be learned by him from this success is that letting other people do the writing, producing and directing frees him up to do what we've justifiably forgotten he can do brilliantly - make us laugh.
In this wacky variant of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, Murphy is the obese college professor and biochemist Sherman Klump, whose experiments enable him to shed 300 pounds and his inhibitions in 30 seconds. His streamlined persona is the flirtatious, fast-talking rascal Buddy Love, swaggeringly confident enough to woo a beauteous colleague (Pinkett) and create havoc in Klump's life.
A lot of the humour is very naughty and brazenly crude - genital, lavatorial, and letting rip with so many fart gags a lit match could detonate the cinema - but offered with such cheerful abandon that only some of it strikes a bum note - as it were. Buddy Love is the Murphy we know: smarmy, saucy, irritating; Professor Klump is - even through the amazing padding and special effects morphing - the sweetest, most endearing character he's ever attempted. And whether Klump is being humiliated by his grotesque family (Murphy earning his salary playing his own mum, dad and gaga granny) or bashfully courting, his attempts to exercise and diet, his depressed binges on chocolate, and his heartache at ridicule are genuinely touching, huggy bits amid farcical frolics.
Shadyac and co. insists on squeezing in a suggestion of To Thine Own Self Be True platitudinising which is a little forced and whilst this doesn't really bear repeated viewing it works as a family film, especially if most of your family is a bunch of 13 yr old boys. Popular in Never Never Land then.