August 17, 2002 -- The long-delayed "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" finally has been released into the end-of-summer Sargasso Sea of lost films where it will probably be quickly forgotten. It is a pleasant film diversion, but it is kind of like cotton candy. There is little substance to it.
Eddie Murphy stars as the title character in this light romantic comedy, somewhat reminiscent of the old "road" pictures with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. The wisecracking hero sets off to deal with mobsters on the moon in the year 2087 who have blown up his nightclub. In tow are pretty nightclub singer Dina Lake (played by Rosario Dawson of "Men in Black 2") and his trusty bodyguard robot, Bruno (Randy Quaid of "Hard Rain"). Jay Mohr of "Pay it Forward" plays nightclub singer Tony Francis, a character who fits into the plot like a round peg in a square hole.
Pluto is after a mysterious crime boss on the moon named Rex Crater, who offered him lots of money for his night club and then tries to kill Pluto when he turns down the offer. This leads to a chase across the moon in hover cars and an Evel Knievel kind of stunt called "rim jumping." The low-gravity effects and space suit stunts are not too bad, but the production design is very dark and grubby-looking, like everything on the moon is old, dirty and worn out. The domed lunar city, called "Little America" looks like a miniature Vegas, with plenty of neon. The idea is that the moon of the future is like the Old West of the past, a lawless place. There are some nice touches in the design like the sign giving the distance to the Neil Armstrong monument. The impressive moon city set was built in detail inside of a large warehouse. The hover cars used in the film are of a clunky retro design. The funny "RV" hover car looks almost like a tank.
There is plenty of acting talent in the film, with veteran actors like Burt Young ("Rocky"), Peter Boyle ("Monster's Ball"), James Rebhorn ("Meet the Parents"), Pam Grier ("Jackie Brown") and John Cleese ("Rat Race"), other actors include Luis Guzmán of "The Count of Monte Cristo" and Illeana Douglas of "Ghost World." Randy Quaid stands out as the robot and Murphy and Dawson hold up their end of the film. Grier has a blast as a pistol-packin' momma straight out of some of her earlier roles as an action star. In fact, it looked like everyone was having a great time making this film. Unfortunately, the story is weak. There is little reason for Murphy and Dawson to stay together, and the comedy is not as funny as it needed to be. There is little character development, so the comedy can't really come from the characters as it should. There is an uneasy coexistence between the comedy and the deadly gunfights and murders. Since we never get the feeling any major character is in any real danger there is really no suspense in the film, so who needs all the cartoon violence and killing?
While the film looks impressive with some interesting production design and some good special effects, the story is pretty weak. The script was written by Neil Cuthbert ("Mystery Men"), which explains a lot. The director, Ron Underwood ("City Slickers") has made some good comedies before and probably will again. Eddie Murphy and the rest of the cast will also come back from this film, even though this movie will probably not do very well at the box office. This film rates a C.
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