The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) / Comedy-Sci Fi

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexual humor, and language
Running time: 95 min.

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Randy Quaid, Joe Pantoliano, Jay Mohr, Luis Guzman, James Rebhorn, Peter Boyle, Burt Young, Pam Grier, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., John Cleese, Illeana Douglas, Alec Baldwin (cameo)
Director: Ron Underwood
Screenplay: Neil Cuthert

Review published May 24, 2007

You've probably heard all about how bad The Adventures of Pluto Nash is, and those who found little in entertainment value during the 95 minute running length, I really do understand.  However, I do have to say that as someone who watches movies regularly, I have seen worse.  Much worse.  Perhaps it was due to having the lowest expectations that I found this mega-flop to be a passable time-waster, and dare I utter, mildly entertaining. 

This is not to say that I recommend Pluto Nash, as it is weak in the action and the humor departments, both of which the film aspires to entertain with.  The script is by Neil Cuthbert, who made other unfunny comic book adventures with Mystery Men and much earlier with Return of Swamp Thing, and Pluto Nash is cut from the same cloth.  But if you're going to have a comic book depth, it's not a bad choice to bring aboard Ron Underwood to direct, as he has proven to be able to elevate hokey material into entertaining fare, as he did with Tremors and Heart and Souls.  Underwood does what he can, but he isn't a miracle worker, and no amount of special effects and kooky characters can cover up the fact that this script is a stinker.  The biggest question isn't why it wasn't better, but why was it ever given such a high budget (reportedly about $100 million) for such a weak screenplay?

Pluto Nash is set in the year 2087, where Eddie Murphy (Showtime, Shrek) plays the title character, a former smuggler-turned-successful-night-club-owner on the moon who feels the heat from local thugs trying to buy him out, led by the enigmatic Rex Crater.  The rumor is that they want the club because gambling is about to open up, and the club would stand to make a killing.  And killing is what they set out to do when Pluto turns down the lucrative offer, and along with his new waitress, Dina (Dawson, Men in Black II), and trusty but outdated android, Pluto is on the run from Crater and his band of hired goons. 

There isn't much in the way of depth or originality in Pluto Nash, as it feels mostly like a less-inspired rip-off of Total Recall.  There are some occasional in-jokes relating to other much more well-known works of science fiction, starting with a full-motion billboard spotlighting George Melies, A Trip to the Moon.  Then we have some easily recognizable nods to Star Wars, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and The TerminatorPluto Nash is a derivative film, but knows it is, and while critics seem to find it so easy to loathe, I won't be jumping on the bandwagon.  Just so you know, this film was shelved for nearly two years, and in that time it had generated quite a bit of negative press, and matters were only made worse when the studio refused to let critics screen the film.  A ravenous feeding frenzy of hate ensued, and I suspect that many went into the film ready to shoot it down, and admittedly Pluto Nash provided them with quite a bit of ammo by not being very good.

In my opinion, Eddie Murphy does a good job as an actor here, mostly because he does very little of his typical smart-ass act.  He does break into his persona on occasion, but for the most part, he is subdued, and tries to deliver seriousness when the situation calls for it.  While Murphy does the best he can, I think it was a mistake to cast him in the role, mostly because Eddie is such a well-known comedian, that we all expect big laughs anytime his name is above the title.  The Adventures of Pluto Nash is not really a comedy per se, although it does try to be humorous a good deal of the time, but those looking for hilarity will be very disappointed.  Had he not already done Total Recall, Schwarzenegger might have been perfect for the role, and perhaps he would not have disappointed as many because he didn't deliver side-splitting quips in every scene.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a big budget failure, but not the out-and-out fiasco others try to make it out to be.  It was a big sitting duck just waiting to be devoured by the critics, and they destroyed it with great relish.  However, Murphy's admirable performance and an amiable nature makes this mediocre film easy to watch, and if you like special effects and comic book action, you might even come away entertained.   Sure, it's not exactly Total Recall, but thankfully it's not Battlefield Earth either.

Qwipster's rating:

2007 Vince Leo