The drawing power of Eddie Murphy is bound to be severely tested by this wildly unfunny sci-fi/action comedy, unveiled Friday without press screenings. Playing a nightclub owner on the moon, even Murphy's expert comic timing and famed charisma can't rescue this effort, which also boasts a talented cast of supporting players similarly lost in space. The inevitable boxoffice disaster is likely to result in yet another "Nutty Professor" or "Doctor Dolittle" to restore Murphy's luster.
Written by Neil Cuthbert
, whose resume includes "Mystery Men" and "Hocus Pocus", the film is set on the moon in the year 2087. Pluto Nash is a smuggler-turned-nightclub owner thanks to the ill fortune of his best friend, Tony Jay
Mohr). One day, Pluto is approached by a pair of hired thugs working for a mysterious gangster named Rex Crater who wants to take over his operation. When Pluto refuses to sell, he finds himself fighting for his life, aided by his beautiful new waitress Dina (Rosario Dawson
) and Bruno (Randy Quaid
), his bald-headed robot bodyguard nearing obsolescence.
The plot's confusing twists and turns suggest some severe editing-room cutting, as do the abbreviated appearances by a slew of talented performers, including Joe Pantoliano
as the aforementioned thug, Luis Guzman as a Pluto Nash fan and victim of robot abuse who helps him out of a jam, Peter Boyle as a retired cop and Pluto's confidant, Illeana Douglas
as a specialist in "body alteration" and Burt Young
as a loan shark. Far more egregious are the complete wastes of Pam Grier
, who plays Pluto's mother and is not even allowed to kick any butt, and John Cleese
, almost literally phoning it in as the officious automated driver (seen on a video screen) of a stolen car.
Making an unbilled cameo is Alec Baldwin
as a Gotti-like mobster.
The space angle, which is ostensibly what makes the picture distinctive, results in such tired satirical bits as signs advertising Trump buildings and paper money featuring the visage of Hillary Clinton (those are the jokes, folks). Murphy finds himself in the uncharacteristic position of mainly playing straight man, to little comedic effect. If he had been allowed to improvise or riff more often, some fun might have resulted, but he mostly seems hemmed in. Scoring the few laughs in the picture are Quaid as the ultra-stiff robot and Mohr as a space-age lounge singer.
Tech credits are adequate, with elaborate sets built in Montreal providing some imaginative futuristic touches. The clever soundtrack features hip-hop versions of such songs as "Blue Moon" and "Dancin' in the Moonlight".
THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH
Warner Bros. Pictures
A Castle Rock Entertainment presentation, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment
A Bregman production
Director: Ron Underwood
Screenwriter: Neil Cuthbert
Producers: Martin Bregman
, Michael Bregman, Louis A. Stroller
Executive producer: Bruce Berman
Director of photography: Oliver Wood
Production designer: Bill Brzeski
Editors: Paul Hirsch, Alan Heim
Music: John Powell
Pluto Nash: Eddie Murphy
Bruno: Randy Quaid
Dina Lake: Rosario Dawson
Mogan: Joe Pantoliano
Tony Francis: Jay Mohr
Felix Laranga: Luis Guzman
Belcher: James Rebhorn
Rowland: Peter Boyle
Gino: Burt Young
Miguel: Miguel A. Nunez Jr
Flura Nash: Pam Grier
James: John Cleese
Running time -- 91 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13