Eddie Murphy slipped from one of the peaks of planet Hollywood with Showtime earlier this year. Now with him trapped in the lead balloon of The Adventures of Pluto Nash — an action-comedy vehicle factory-made from worn clichés, wearing riffs and virtually vacuum-sealed away from both adventure and laughs — the low gravity of the moon ironically seems to accelerate his free fall from comic grace.
Walking into a moon-based club, Nash vaguely recalls Murphy’s uncaged and strutting jailbird of his big-screen breakout, 48 Hrs. (1982). But 20 years have dulled his mischievously twinkling eyes and his wit. Even his experience as a master comic actor can’t tickle a laugh from screenwriter Neil Cuthbert’s (Mystery Men) numb jokes or tighten the suspense of the slack plot line.
Things come easy for Nash. Too easy. Like Bogart’s Rick of Casablanca, Nash trades his smuggler’s rags for the sharp eveningwear of a successful nightclub proprietor. And of all of the moon joints robotically jumping with digital hip hop, a beautiful stranger named Dina (Rosario Dawson) glides into his (she might as well be wearing a T-shirt that reads “love interest”).
The rest is an assemblage of action, sci-fi and Mafia clichés; it’s star-studded with the likes of Pam Grier (in a role that may be melodramatically worse than the one she had in last year’s horror stinker, Bones) and Alec Baldwin, but it’s still lackluster.
Randy Quaid earns a star for this flick as Nash’s loyal and lascivious robot, Bruno, who could be the comic result of a gene splice between Frankenstein’s monster and The Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man.
Murphy’s character suffers a long fall in Nash’s climax. But our fictional hero is guaranteed a happy ending. Murphy? If the upcoming I Spy doesn’t gain him some career altitude, there’s always his spunky donkey in the upcoming Shrek 2.
James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.