We’re ditching our usual one-on-one combat for this Smackdown to bring you a tag-team match… actually, it’s more like a Battle Royale — both our contenders feature stars playing more than one part. Adam Sandler, who seems to crank out at least two movies a year, packs an extra role into Jack and Jill, portraying both a TV commercial director and that character’s homely twin sister. In the remake of the Jerry Lewis chestnut The Nutty Professor, Eddie Murphy plays the lead plus about 45 minor characters sprinkled throughout the movie. The ring will get crowded in this one, folks, but sooner or later one of these contenders — actually several or many at once — will emerge victorious.
Put-upon director Jack Sadelstein (Sandler) is having a hard time at work. His latest client isn’t pleased with the commercial he’s dreamed up, and it looks like the star he’s hoping to land for a big-budget Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, Al Pacino, isn’t interested in the job at all. So this is probably not the best time for a visit from Jack’s grating, demanding sister Jill (Sandler again). The Sadelsteins’ houseguest gets under Jack’s skin right from the beginning, although his two kids and wife (Katie Holmes) find her pleasant and entertaining.
Accompanied by the clingy Jill, Jack goes to a Laker game in an attempt to corner basketball fan Pacino and convince him to do the commercial. The actor still isn’t interested, but he sure takes a shine to Jill — too bad she doesn’t find the Oscar-winner attractive. Jack needs Dunkin’ as a client, however, so he agrees to have his sister extend her stay in the hopes that he can somehow hook her up with Pacino to soften him up. Farce ensues, heartbreak occurs, the two siblings argue and fight… but this is a comedy, so no prizes for guessing whether Jack and Jill will be closer than ever by the end… or whether our hero can land a certain famous actor to (literally) sing the virtues of his high-cholesterol client
The Defending Champion
Brilliant but painfully shy university professor Sherman Klump (Murphy) spends much of his non-teaching time doing research on obesity, to the point where he’s nearly perfected a weight-loss potion. He’d make an ideal test subject for the stuff himself, as he tips the scales at several hundred pounds. Depressed and unlucky in romance, particularly with the fetching and appropriately named Carla Purty (Jada Pinkett Smith), he decides to try his magic liquid, and —zap! — the pounds vaporize, but as a side effect, his testosterone levels spike far into the red zone. This transforms our man into a hyperactive, macho, alter ego, whom Sherman hastily christens Buddy Love.
The naive professor assumes that slim automatically equals attractive, no matter how annoying the personality, and he sets about wooing Carla in his altered state. The potion doesn’t last very long, so Buddy has to quickly work his spastic charm during their liaisons. Carla is physically attracted to Buddy but enamored of Sherman’s mind. Which one will win the girl?
Jack and Jill is like pretty much every other Adam Sandler movie, so those who enjoy the ex-Saturday Night Live comic’s brand of early-teenage humor will find this one comfortingly familiar. Like many alumni of the durable TV show, Sandler was weaned on standup comedy and skits, and has always struggled to transfer this skill-set into long-form movies. That’s probably why his films always feel thin; they’re basically sketches, small ideas stretched over 90 or so minutes.
Jack and Jill is no different; Sandler looks and acts funny in drag, but not so funny that we need to watch him for an hour and a half. The strained relationship of the twins and Jill’s determined courtship by Pacino (who gets points for being a good sport) don’t really provide enough material for a complete film. As such, the movie relies too heavily on its guest stars, who are sprinkled throughout like more product placement. Pacino’s in an awful lot of scenes, and the movie is cluttered with brief appearances by the likes of Johnny Depp and Shaquille O’Neal. These appearances have some novelty value, but in the end they’re not all that funny or memorable.
The Nutty Professor doesn’t need such cameos, as Murphy takes them all for himself. He’s an SNL guy too, but the difference is he’s more imaginative with oddball characters and lustily enjoys playing them. If this movie is remembered for anything, it’s the pair of extended dinner scenes at the Klump household, with Murphy enthusiastically assaying every member of the family, including grandma. These scenes don’t really move the story along, but who cares? They’re the funniest element in the movie, and we know the proceedings will end happily anyway, so the diversion is welcome.
Like its opponent, The Nutty Professor is fond of mugging, physical humor and relies a little too heavily on fart gags. But those Klump family scenes are a lot of fun, and the film is helped by the script, which had almost as many credited writers as Murphy has roles. Somehow they managed to stitch together some clever sight gags and plot turns. The same can’t be said of Jack and Jill, which is straightforward, superficial and crass.
Neither of these films will make anyone’s Top Movie Comedies of All Time list — they’re a little too basic and undistinguished for that. Few films (save for 48 Hours and, to some extent,
Beverly Hills Cop) have ever harnessed the genius Murphy displayed early in his career in numerous SNL sketches, but the makers of The Nutty Professor draw out at least a small chunk of his under-utilized talent. Sandler can be funny, but he’s just not at that level. The two stars’ respective movies reflect this difference in talent, so the many Eddies win this one over the two Adams. The Nutty Professor takes this Smack.