Review: The Nutty Professor (1996)

Composer: David Newman

Label: Promotional Release (composer promo)

Catalogue Nr.: Promotional Release

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This Eddie Murphy vehicle from 1996 is actually a remake of a Jerry Lewis classic from the early 60's: Talking-head Eddie is playing professor Sherman Klump (and family!) who has a obvious problem with his weight. As soon as he is falling in love with a young colleague, he is drinking a slim-fast potion which he invented himself. This medication turns him into a playboy called Buddy Love but not without side effects and from that point on, the story is becoming a comic adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The film was pretty nice and can be considered as one of the better Eddie Murphy films. It actually avoids to make unmotivated fun of fat people but focuses on their problems and feelings in a rather cranky way. Furthermore, the multiple roles for Eddie Murphy helped a lot to make it a successful comedy.

The score:

It might seem odd but The Nutty Professor actually represents the best film that composer David Newman had worked on in 1996 which was a very busy year for the composer with a total of five scoring assignments. He scored Arnie's embarrassing christmas chaos Jingle All The Way, the weak comic book movie The Phantom, the forgettable comedy Big Bully and the weak but enjoyable family movie Mathilda. In a miraculous outburst of creativity, the composer created one of his most powerful scores that year with The Phantom and somehow managed to produce classy work for the other flicks as well, especially for the Arnie-flop. However, his work for The Nutty Professor is an evidence that his time was running pretty short because he scored the film very sparse or maybe it was just clear from the beginning that the film would make use of several songs so there was no need for a lot of score anyways. His work for The Nutty Professor even earned David Newman the BMI Film Music Award in 1997.

Nevertheless, what we have of David Newman's score on this promo release sounds really enjoyable. It all takes off with one of the craziest opening cues ever composed for a comedy in "Track 01" which accompanies the hamster-mayhem scene in the film. This cue is all David Newman with quick switches between tuneful jazzy music and insanely wild orchestral bombast. I just love it whenever he is going that way, especially due to his excellent usage of the saxophone combined with a slight baritone sax. Hardly any other composer can use this instrument in a similarly inspiring way than David Newman and it makes a perfectly fitting musical introduction of the professor.

The emotional music which follows in "Track 02" is beautiful. It originally accompanies the scene in which an unfunny comedian is making fun of Sherman's weight problems which hurts him deeply. The scene is one of those rare moments where Eddie Murphy really shined with good acting but the score really helped here. Next up is "Track 03" which has some pounding action music for Sherman's Fat-zilla nightmare. Some musical ideas from "Track 01" are re-appearing here which makes the track a fun listen. "Track 04", "Track 06", "Track 08" and "Track 10" all feature more emotional music for the love story of the film between Sherman and Carla which almost makes it seem like the film's emotional passages were temp-tracked with Alan Silvestri's Forrest Gump (1994).

The first transformation of Sherman Klump into Buddy Love is accompanied by dramatic action music and pounding synthesized rhythms in "Track 05". That musical mayhem is getting even bigger when Buddy Love is changing back into Sherman Klump as heard in "Track 07". The cues that follow now are less than one minute in length but still offer some funny music. One can't help but be amazed what a good composer like David Newman can do within 30 or 40 seconds. A funny spoof on golden age love themes can be heard in "Track 13". "Track 17" is with only 19 seconds probably the shortest finale cue ever composed for a film but the composer still managed to give me the Goosebumps here.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 72%

Score as heard on CD: 70%

TOTAL: 71%

 

The presentation:

The promotional release is extremely short with only 21 minutes of score and many cues are only running less than one minute but we still get some good David Newman fun. There is no cover art or track names.

Presentation by the Label: Promo

 

Summary:

The Nutty Professor is certainly not a score that every film music fan must hear but fans of David Newman won't miss that one. The composer has written a nice musical portrait of Sherman Klump with the help of a clever orchestration, featuring brass and sax playing on the lower bars, without making it sound too intolerant. Yeah, it is a short fun and the promo is extremely hard to find but sadly, that is the case with many of David Newman's scores. The score is a good comedy work for an equally good film and should not be underestimated only because of its slim running time.

 

Tracklisting:

01.  Track 01 (02:10)
02.  Track 02 (02:28)
03.  Track 03 (02:27)
04.  Track 04 (01:22)
05.  Track 05 (01:48)
06.  Track 06 (02:09)
07.  Track 07 (02:17)
08.  Track 08 (00:59)
09.  Track 09 (00:52)
10.  Track 10 (00:40)
11.  Track 11 (00:53)
12.  Track 12 (00:42)
13.  Track 13 (00:48)
14.  Track 14 (00:34)
15.  Track 15 (00:23)
16.  Track 16 (00:48)
17.  Track 17 (00:19)

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