With the help of trick photography and prosthetic makeup, Eddie Murphy again plays several parts in Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, most notably the college research scientist Sherman Klump. Murphy also plays several members of the heavyset Klump clan, including Sherman's mother, father, brother and grandmother. The story this time finds the Klumps relieved to see shy, overweight Sherman finally summoning the courage to propose to beautiful Denise Gains (Janet Jackson), a fellow teacher at the school. (There's no mention of Sherman's girlfriend from the last picture, played by Jada Pinkett). But trouble occurs when Buddy Love, Sherman's nasty alter ego, tries to break free from Sherman and disrupt his marriage and career plans.

Sherman's solution is to have his 'Buddy' gene isolated and removed from his DNA, but the radical experiment goes awry and allows Buddy to have greater control than ever. In another experiment, Sherman discovers the fountain of youth, but both Buddy and the college dean (Larry Miller) scheme to use the serum for their own devious reasons. Meanwhile, Sherman's mother and father experience marital discord and grandma lusts after Buddy! Matters are sorted out in the end, but not before Sherman almost loses both Denise and his brilliant gray matter.

Everyone who saw the 1996 Nutty Professor (itself a remake of the 1963 Jerry Lewis classic) knows that the funniest parts were not the main storyline involving Sherman's Jekyll-and-Hyde battle with Buddy Love, but the crude, peripheral vaudeville bits involving Sherman's dysfunctional family. As the subtitle of this sequel suggests, the producers (including Murphy and Jerry Lewis) have capitalized on the best stuff, but they don't seem to know what to do with it.

Surprisingly, there is still a lot of Sherman and Buddy, as part of the silly, convoluted plot about the fountain-of-youth serum. Even more surprisingly, the Klumps aren't very funny this time around, despite the padded, er, extra, screen time.Though Murphy convinces as these assorted characters (Rick Baker's make-up is impressive), he's given flatulence-humor shtick that is as tired as it is offensive: Haven't we seen it all before in the Farrelly and Wayans Brothers pictures, not to mention the '96 Nutty Professor? (Perhaps it's just as well that some of Murphy's lines aren't really intelligible.) Even a running gag about sex with a giant lab hamster seems familiar.

More regrettably, the screenplay (by Barry W. Blaustein and David Sheffield, and Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz, the latter brother team of Chuck & Buck fame), works overtime by injecting authentic pathos into the various storylines-Sherman still dealing with his weight issues, mother and father Klump having marital discord-and director Peter Segal bathes these scenes in a golden glow usually reserved for coffee commercials. Meanwhile, many comic opportunities are missed. A real envelope-pushing film would have attempted a Michael Jackson joke (a Murphy stand-up comedy staple ages ago) in the presence of baby sister Janet, but the film remains respectful, with the leading lady looking pretty but getting nothing to do. Kathleen Freeman, the delightful foil in so many Jerry Lewis pictures, including the '63 Nutty Professor, is also wasted here in a small role.

--Eric Monder