The Adventures of Pluto Nash

on August 16, 2002 by Mark Keizer
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   "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" aspires to the cracked lunacy of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai," but thanks to an astonishingly witless script ends up more like "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane." This Warner Bros. release, which sat on the shelf for two years, wastes a solid supporting cast and some eye-popping visuals. Eddie Murphy, coming off the flaccid "Showtime," brings none of his ad-libbing energy to the table, leaving him adrift in a standard-issue plot with sitcom-quality one-liners.

   The film takes place in 2087, in the city of Little America, a sprawling metropolis on the moon. Pluto Nash (Eddie Murphy), fresh out of prison, takes over a run-down nightclub and turns it into a trendy hotspot. After gambling is outlawed on Earth, the mob attempts to buy Pluto's club and refashion it as a casino. When he refuses to sell, the mob destroys the club and tries to kill him, sending Pluto and club waitress Dina (Rosario Dawson) running for their lives. Pluto then tries to piece together who exactly is after him with the help of his humanoid robot, Bruno (a game Randy Quaid).

   It's easy to pinpoint why the film doesn't work: It's not funny. Neil Cuthbert's tired, listless script leaves the talented cast swimming upstream. Peter Boyle, John Cleese, Jay Mohr, Pam Grier and Luis Guzman try their best, but there's nothing to grab onto. Director Ron Underwood gives the film an unwelcome claustrophobic feel, with dark interiors and scenes that seem to consist entirely of close-ups. Ultimately, though, the blame for Pluto Nash will fall on Murphy. Here, as in "Showtime," he performs as if he's settled into an edgeless, almost corporate phase in his career.

   Futuristic cities of Little America and Moon Beach are nicely realized, even if they are reminiscent of "Total Recall," mixed with the neon glitz of "A.I." Although a cosmic city of tomorrow begs for satirical billboards, magazine covers and street signs, the ball is dropped at almost every turn. Starring Eddie Murphy, Randy Quaid and Rosario Dawson. Directed by Ron Underwood. Written by Neil Cuthbert. Produced by Bruce Berman, Martin Bregman, Michael Bregman and Louis A. Stroller. A Warner Bros. release. Adventure/Comedy. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual humor and language. Running time: 96 min

Tags: Eddie Murphy, Randy Quaid and Rosario Dawson. Directed by Ron Underwood. Written by Neil Cuthbert. Produced by Bruce Berman, Martin Bregman, Michael Bregman and Louis A. Stroller. A Warner Bros. release. Adventure/Comedy, interiors, reminiscent, swimming, witless
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