With Eddie Murphy‘s Tower Heist arriving in theaters this Friday, November 4, I felt I should finally post another installment in my “I Finally Watched…” series and get to that Netflix copy of The Adventures of Pluto Nash that had been sitting on my coffee table for the last month or so. But if you’re expecting a lambasting similar to what I gave Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever and Skyline, I’m sorry, that’s not going to be the case. At least not entirely…
No, Pluto Nash isn’t good, in fact it’s quite bad, but it’s not bad in the way its reputation would lead you to believe. It’s not offensively awful or even a film I would immediately turn to in conversation if we were discussing bad films. In fact, if you cut out a few of the sex jokes and the swearing this would play more like an innocent PG-rated film for 8-10 year-olds, and if they had gone that direction it probably would have done gangbusters at the box-office instead of becoming one of the biggest flops in history.
The budget is said to have been around $110 million with $20 million of that rumored to have gone into Murphy’s pocket. The film’s release was delayed 14 months, there were no press screenings and it brought in $2.1 million on opening weekend back in August 2002. It would ultimately finish its domestic run seven weeks later, amassing a grand total of $4.4 million. Its final worldwide tally was just over $7.1 million.
Once the dust settled, Pluto Nash saw director Ron Underwood go from being the man who directed City Slickers and the cult-favorite Tremors, to a director that helmed Usher’s In the Mix and is now primarily working in television. Adding to the fallout, this was the last screenplay Neil Cuthbert (Mystery Men) ever had produced. Rough, but deserved?
To begin, Pluto Nash simply isn’t funny. Yes, Murphy has made several bad film choices over the course of his career, but knowing how funny he can be, I’m not sure I will ever cease to be amazed when he works on projects this unfunny. The best example I can think of, of a joke falling flat, involves an awful punchline revolving around a basketball team called the Air Jordans, which I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a joke or just a pop culture chuckler, but even alone in my living room the silence was deafening.
For those that haven’t seen it, The Adventures of Pluto Nash is set in 2087 where Pluto Nash (Murphy) owns a nightclub on the moon. Soon a mysterious mobster named Rex Crater is trying to force him to sell so he can open the first casino in what is referred to as “Little America”.
Pluto refuses, his club is blown up and, through a not-so-cleverly-designed twist of fate, he ends up running around with a wannabe singer from Salt Lake City (Rosario Dawson) and his out-of-date robot Bruno (Randy Quaid). The story continues as the mob is trying to kill him and he’s trying to find Rex and get back at him for blowing up his club.
Of the leads, Dawson’s character is probably the most confounding as she doesn’t need to be there and the only reason she is, outside of serving as a love interest, seems to be to ask the most obvious of questions and help fill in plot holes with statements like “Where are you going?” “What are you doing?” and “Why?” Yeah, not exactly a dream role as Cuthbert does her no favors with the dialogue he’s written. This is probably why it seems as if Dawson simply couldn’t give a damn or even be bothered to even try. She’s lucky 25th Hour came out that same year because this wasn’t the last impression she would have wanted to make before going in for her next audition.
As for Murphy, he seems as confused as the audience as to what he’s doing there, Quaid does try his best and is one of the better aspects of the film and I have to add the fact Pam Grier is laughably bad in only a few scenes as Pluto’s mother.
The entire production ends up coming off so cheap that the millions of dollars spent trying to create a cityscape reminiscent of the one in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (or is it Spielberg’s A.I.?) and a car chase that appears to be biting off the pod race in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace all goes to waste.
I will admit, however, I did get a mild laugh out of Babette, the French maid robot stuck in “oops” mode, causing her to keep bending over to pick up her duster. But I’m not sure if I chuckled because I thought it was funny or because I thought it was Elizabeth Berkley playing the role at first. (It wasn’t, it was some actress by the name of Jacynthe RenÃ©.)
I also got a laugh out of Jay Mohr‘s description of how Pluto should go about breaking into the bad guy’s penthouse suite toward the end of the film, but even that joke was ruined by an awful follow-up scene, which is actually indicative of the whole film.
There is absolutely no sense of comedic timing and the actors seem bored, but who can blame them with jokes such as Hilary Clinton on a $10,000 bill, a cryogenically frozen chihuahua and a shout out to Microsoft as a street name. If that’s the best they have to offer what can you really expect?
Some of the biggest questions I have revolve around why Pluto Nash was ever made as a science fiction film? Why set such a routine story on the moon if you’re not going to explore anything more than ways to create signs advertising products in the future?
I can just imagine the day a studio exec stumbled on this script and tried to convince a group of others to buy in…
I think you get my point.
There’s also this whole issue of cloning going on and for some reason clones aren’t really clones, but instead just carbon copies with the same physical features, memories, speech patterns and even clothes.
*SPOILER COMING* Seriously, at the end of the movie Eddie Murphy as Pluto Nash is wearing a rented tuxedo and runs into Eddie Murphy as the film’s lead villain and he’s wearing the exact same tux. How does that work? Why would they have the exact same outfit? Did they even consider the question? Maybe that’s supposed to be a joke… Maybe that’s why the clone asks him if he’s wearing a rented tux and then tells him he can afford to buy his own. Maybe, but that’s just another example of how bad the comedic timing in this film truly is.
Yet, despite all of this, it’s not one of those movies I will turn to unless the comparison really calls for it. If the conversation turns to flashy, big budget films that are eternally dull, this one qualifies, but I’m pretty sure you can think of a few of those yourself right now that are just as bad if not worse.
As for The Adventures of Pluto Nash being one of the all-time worst? Nah, there are plenty films that are more-deserving of that distinction.