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The Nutty Professor (1963)



Jerry Lewis' Jekyll-Hyde spoof is dated but great.
  • Review Date: March 14, 2009
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1963
  • Running Time: 107 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

While Buddy Love is introduced as the most magnetic, macho, and "swingingest" man around, the script emphasizes he's a conceited jerk, too, more or less the villain of the piece. Ultimate message of Kelp learning self-acceptance and not trying to hide behind a facade. A pre-feminist view of female characters as either swooning love interests or nagging wives (though some perceptive comedy about how heroine Stella also puts on a whole different personality when she's with her pals than when she's in class).

Violence & scariness

The volatile Buddy Love punches out some guys. Slapstick weight-room accidents. Prof. Kelp is manhandled by a football jock.

Sexy stuff

Fantasy sequence of attractive leading lady Stella Stevens in some skimpy and clingy outfits (even those are pretty demure).

Not applicable

Dated plugs for Vic Tanny's gymnasium and bandleader Les Brown will go over heads of modern audiences.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Heavy drinking (and vast knowledge of cocktail mixology) is a strong part of Buddy Love's "cool" persona, although he is shown becoming surly and abusive because of it. Transformed back into Kelp, the character suffers a memorable comic hangover. Quite a bit of cigarette and cigar smoking across the cast, also seen as an indicator of sophistication. Only Julius Kelp coughs on tobacco smoke (obviously meant to be a sign of weakness). Undertone of drug use/abuse in Kelp's transformations.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that despite being ranked highly in the Hollywood-comedy pantheon, this 1963 feature is not as fast-paced, f/x-bloated, or bathroom-humor risque as the later Nutty Professor remake movies starring Eddie Murphy in multiple roles. While younger kids will like the silliness, older kids and adults might better comprehend the humor here (and the mid-20th-century references to beatnik-jazz clubs, "swingers," and The Lost Weekend). Heavy drinking, cigarette smoking, and rude behavior are made to look glamorous, at least initially.

What's the story?

At a California college, nerdy chemistry professor Julius Kelp (Jerry Lewis) is a genius at brewing dangerous potions but a clumsy weakling in everything else. After being bullied by one of his own students, Kelp wonders if he can secretly formulate a chemical concoction that will grant him strength and assertiveness. Result: bucktoothed, bespectacled Kelp temporarily changes, unrecognizably, into a clubgoing hipster ladies' man, piano-playing crooner, and all-around alpha male who renames himself "Buddy Love." But while hugely popular, this new personality is also sullen, rude, egocentric, hard-drinking, and manipulative. Buddy begins a pushy courtship of a pretty co-ed Stella (Stella Stevens) in Kelp's class, who is both attracted and repulsed by this sharp-dressed, charismatic scoundrel.

Is it any good?


Even critics who hate Jerry Lewis movies praise THE NUTTY PROFESSOR, if grudgingly, as a high point for the director-star. In other knockabout comedies, done both with and without comedy partner Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis made a hit with audiences -- especially kids -- by (mis)behaving like a grating, hyperactive child. This film, while delivering a handful of broad slapstick bits, is less frenetic and more thoughtful and character-based, with some surprisingly nuanced psychological insights (compare-contrast with the Eddie Murphy version) as cartoonish Kelp experiences nightlife as the impossibly "cool" and abrasive Buddy Love.

Some commentators interpreted Buddy Love as a venomous caricature of Dean Martin, but it seems more like an on-target spoof on the whole early-60s male ideal of the hip dude, right outta the Rat Pack and the Playboy Mansion. Indeed, close your eyes while Buddy bosses women and insults men and you can imagine Frank Sinatra smugly delivering those same lines (and songs). In 2008 Jerry Lewis lent his voice and characters to a more kid-targeted, computer-generated cartoon sequel-update on DVD, also called The Nutty Professor (rated PG).

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way Jerry Lewis twisted The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for surprisingly profound character comedy -- for once the Mr. Hyde equivalent wasn't an apelike goon but a smooth, suave, "swinger" -- not a nice guy but superficially more appealing than Jekyll. Ask young viewers what they think of this movie compared to the later Eddie Murphy remake and its sequel. Do most women really go crazy for the bad-boy "Buddy Love" poseurs of the world or appreciate the Kelps/Klumps?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 4, 1963
DVD release date:October 12, 2004
Cast:Howard Morris, Jerry Lewis, Stella Stevens
Director:Jerry Lewis
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:107 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 11 years old June 9, 2009
A very good movie, but I wouldn't recommend it for younger children. The part where the professor turns into Buddy Love for the first time might frighten them.
Teen, 17 years old Written byabbacus June 18, 2012

Just OK.

Funny movie.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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