PHOTO: BRUCE McBROOM Enlarge
Words fail. Wow, comes to mind.
There's a good reason why there is a new Eddie Murphy comedy in movie theaters this weekend and you have not been swamped with TV commercials, celebrity interviews, fast food restaurant tie-ins, or buzz.
There's also a good reason why this new Eddie Murphy comedy is the first big superstar-driven, special effects-heavy film in a long while that wasn't screened in advance for critics, allowing for reviews to appear the day the movie opened.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a disaster of Battlefield Earth proportions. That Kevin Costner or John Travolta had nothing to do with it is surely a matter of cosmic harmony. Pluto Nash is so hard to watch the title itself will become Hollywood shorthand for any monumental, embarrassing failure - right up there with Heaven's Gate and Hudson Hawk.
This is why Warner Bros., the studio that got stuck with this comedy-free comedy, has underpromoted it and been pushing its release date around since spring 2001.
If only director Ron Underwood had documented the hand-wringing that surely went on. Seeing that would have been fun.
Pluto Nash will set lunar exploration back decades. The press notes describe a movie set on the moon in 2087. I believe it's no coincidence that at one point Rosario Dawson (Men in Black II) actually says, “I hate the moon.”
Eddie Murphy plays the title character, a club owner who must ... who has to ... um. See? There you go. Again, I refer to the press notes. It says here Pluto runs into trouble when he refuses to sell his nightclub to a “lunar gangster.”
Huh. I didn't really get that out of it. Instead I remember a dead look in Murphy's eye. There are Saturday Night Live guest stars who read their off-camera cue cards with more interest. Ever start saying something and forget what you're saying before you're finished? That's everyone in this movie, which starts as a comedy, becomes an adventure, then a romance, then a detective story, then a comedy again.
Scenes play out like this:
“You know who I am? Felix Laranga!”
“You never heard of me?”
“That's because you're stupid!”
I kid you not, folks. But talk about stupid. Pluto is meant to be smart but he's astonished when it's pointed out that he may be misreading a man's initials. Yes, Virginia, “WZW” may actually be “MZM”. There's also a scene when a rocket punctures a hole in a moon base. Since there is no gravity on the moon, the occupants hold on for dear life as everything floats around and is sucked out.
That is, they do this until the laws of gravity relax themselves and everyone walks away.
The last shot is so sad and chilling, the editors could have meant it as a parody of that final scene in The Godfather, Part II where Al Pacino sits in his chair and the camera lingers over the face of his morally bankrupt Michael Corleone. Murphy laughs and twirls a cigar between his lips and the camera holds on him for a long time and you can't miss the look in his eyes. It's the look of a man who is worried that the check in his pocket may bounce.