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'The Adventures of Pluto Nash'

'Pluto Nash' is as dull, ugly as moon's surface

Monday, August 19, 2002

By Christy Lemire, The Associated Press

"The Adventures of Pluto Nash" is everything you'd expect of a movie that's sat on the shelf for more than a year, then wasn't screened for critics before it finally did come out.

It's boring. It's flat. It's ugly. Worst of all for a comedy, it's not even remotely funny.

But it isn't so abominable that Warner Bros. needed to withhold it from us prior to opening day.

Not showing us a movie like "Pluto Nash" -- starring Eddie Murphy as a nightclub owner on the moon in 2087-- makes us wonder what's wrong with it, and provokes stories like the one in this week's USA Today, which catalogued Murphy's uneven film choices in recent years.

All this attention could have been avoided, however, just by letting us see the stupid thing.

If you plan on seeing "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" -- and using the word "adventures" in the title was wishful thinking on the filmmakers' part -- there are some basic things you should know.

It's a massive waste of talented actors who surely had better things to do with their time, including Peter Boyle, Illeana Douglas, Luis Guzman, Joe Pantoliano, Pam Grier, John Cleese and Burt Young.

Comedian Jay Mohr's in it, too, as an accordion-playing, kilt-wearing lounge singer who performs at a dive bar on the moon -- but watching Mohr do his famous Christopher Walken impersonation for an hour and a half would have been more entertaining.

There is, however, one very funny cameo by Alec Baldwin, in which he pokes fun at his run-ins with the paparazzi. To laugh out loud, just once, is incredibly refreshing -- but it's not worth the price of admission.

"Pluto Nash" also looks surprisingly muddled, considering it was shot by Oliver Wood, a cinematographer with more than three decades of experience on films including "Face/Off" and this year's "The Bourne Identity." Everything is blanketed in a grimy, gray haze -- and yeah, it takes place on the moon, but it didn't have to be dreary.

Director Ron Underwood ("City Slickers") doesn't get much out of the sight gags, either, because they're not terribly inspired. Among them:

Pluto's habit of carrying moist towelettes wherever he goes.

$10,000 bills with Hillary Rodham Clinton's face on them.

A video phone that was innovative back when "The Jetsons" debuted in 1962.

A human-looking robot dressed as a French maid who repeatedly drops her feather duster and bends over slowly to pick it up.

A cryogenically preserved Chihuahua that thaws when placed in a microwave oven.

And then there's the plot (which isn't really important because it functions solely to set up the lame sight gags): A mob boss pressures Pluto to sell his nightclub because he wants to buy it and turn it into a casino. Pluto outsmarts him with the help of Dina (Rosario Dawson), a beautiful singer he's just hired, and his robot bodyguard, Bruno (Randy Quaid).

The movie is reminiscent of another one that Neil Cuthbert wrote: 1999's "Mystery Men," about a ragtag band of superheroes. It also had a big, talented cast (Ben Stiller, Janeane Garafalo, William H. Macy, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear and Geoffrey Rush) who were all dressed up with nowhere to go.

"Pluto Nash" has nowhere to go but the video store, after the briefest of runs in theaters.

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