The Adventures Of Pluto Nash

Movie Information

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy
Director: Ron Underwood
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Randy Quaid, Pam Grier
Rated: PG-13

I’m calling this film a “sci-fi comedy.” It’s certainly marketed as a comedy, so I suppose that’s what it’s supposed to be. But unless we’re using the word “comedy” in the classically strict sense — meaning “not a tragedy” — then the label is a misnomer. Actually, even in the classic sense, tragedy might be more apt. It’s certainly a tragic waste of talent, time and money. It doesn’t take long to oh-so-completely understand why this dog of a movie stayed in its kennel for two years. The great pity is that those responsible didn’t cut their losses — and ours — and retitle it The Adventures of Direct-to-Video Nash, and send it to its proper home, which is exactly what would have happened if it starred anyone other than Eddie Murphy. If you thought the last Murphy flick, Showtime, was pretty high on the lame-o-meter, that’s only because you hadn’t seen this. Comparatively speaking, Showtime is a comedy classic. The plot is nothing more than a standard gangster picture set on the moon. Yes, you read correctly. Pluto Nash (Murphy) buys a disgustingly run-down bar, and by the magic of having the narrative leap ahead seven years, turns it into the hottest nightspot on the moon — a place where the customers all dance like they’ve been choreographed by Busby Berkeley (considering the fact that director Ron Underwood tends to shoot most of the movie looking down on the action only underscores this). Alas, it seems that the mysterious godfather figure of lunar corruption, Rex Crater, wants to make Pluto an offer he can’t refuse. Pluto — apparently no scholar of underworld fiction — refuses it anyway, his club is blown up and he finds himself on the run for his life, as gunmen (apparently trained by the Bosnian sharpshooters who couldn’t plug Owen Wilson in Behind Enemy Lines) try to put an end to his career. Ever see this plot before? Thought so. Add down-on-her-luck chanteuse Dina Lake (Rosario Dawson, continuing to prove herself as the female Ben Chaplin on the Sominex scale) for a romantic interest; an outdated, oversexed robot bodyguard named Bruno (Randy Quaid) for a sidekick; and a no-nonsense mother (a thankless role for Pam Grier). That’s the recipe for Pluto Nash — and a mighty bland concoction it produces. The jokes are uninspired and flat, with a tendency toward the leering adolescent variety. Screenwriter Neil Cuthbert (Mystery Men) seems to have an endless supply of boob-and-butt gags in his repertoire, while nervously sidestepping a very obvious feminist riposte about the star’s apparent … er … shortcomings in his body-builder incarnation. (I guess one just doesn’t dare suggest such a thing about Murphy the Macho.) The film’s funniest gag is in the trailer, and that’s only because it recuts two scenes to produce a joke that isn’t actually in the movie! It’s one long, tedious exercise in waste. It wastes Murphy. It wastes Pam Grier, Peter Boyle, John Cleese (never has the man been this unfunny) and Ileana Douglas. It wastes gorgeous production design. And if you choose to subject yourself to it, it’ll waste your time.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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