|Delayed from release for about a year and a half, The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a film that can only be called strange. A mix between a mob comedy and a science fiction film, Nash is a film that has a lot of flaws and its easy to discern why Warner Bros. kept this one off the table for so long. Eddie Murphy is not in top form here and hovers somewhere between the serious and the funny. This film is about a guy who's pressured by the mob to sell his place so that the big guys can come in and make the moon a gambling Mecca. Unfortunately, this story does not belong on the moon.|
The story constructed to run during Pluto Nash is something that is quite ordinary and it just doesn't mesh well with a science fiction story. Or perhaps Eddie Murphy just doesn't belong on the moon. This basic story has been used several times before, but it's been presented in a more dramatic fashion and more successfully. The biggest problem with the film is that it's just not funny enough. In point of fact, there's very little comedy in it at all. The actors just seem to run around the moon from unimpressive gun battles. A lot of the set design gets tossed about and blown up for much of the film.
And in considering the set design, it seems to take over every single other element of the film. It is garish, depressing, and looks to have been thought up by someone who had access to nothing but cardboard and plastic, and only garish colors at that. The scenes are oppressive and look very much as if they were filmed on a sound stage. Of course, it's obvious that they couldn't really film on the moon, but it might have been better to create an atmosphere with a little brevity. The concept of "Less is More" seems never to have occurred to anybody in the concept for this film.
And addition to the hideous design of moon life, the denizens of the moon do not seem to be a very happy lot of people. The place is so dirty and dark and depressing that it seems hard to reason why Eddie Murphy's character would harbor so much loyalty to the big giant rock. For example, the furnishings in the motel that Murphy and his co-stars stay are certainly different from the hotel rooms of today, but the furnishings are quite dirty. Even Murphy's club has an oppressive atmosphere. The entire film seems to look like Times Square in New York City before Rudolph Giuliani got to the strip joints.
And for all the effort placed into the set design (it looks like quite a lot of time was put into it even if the result wasn't satisfactory), the special effects are not the most impressive either. A most immediate comparison could be made to the 1997 film Space Truckers. That film had the same messy futuristic look as Pluto Nash. And that film didn't turn out too well either. The effects could also be most readily compared to a science fiction film of the 1980's, when digital technology was not rampant and special effects supervisors had to deal with sets they could actually build, rather than create in the computer.
But for all the strange scenery throughout the film, most of the supporting characters give the best performances that could be expected from a screenplay with few surprises. Randy Quaid plays the role of Eddie Murphy's late-model robot and has the most variety of facial expressions of anyone in the film. His speech isn't particularly funny, but watching him is entertaining enough. Rosario Dawson also plays her role as Murphy's love interest quite competently. She isn't funny either, but that's probably the fault of the script. It is quite flat. It's like the screenwriter relied completely on the actors to make the story funny.
And considering that this film was constructed to be a comedy, the fact that it isn't funny is probably the largest nail in this film's coffin. A variety of factors are probably to blame for this film's failure. An uninspired screenplay is at the base of the problem. A cast with no real standout performances is also makes the film stumble. But the largest problem is probably that the film is just not funny. Eddie Murphy is certainly a talented actor, but he just doesn't shine in this movie. There's no real chemistry between the cast. The best advice anyone can give to the filmmakers is to learn from this experience and not make the same mistakes in the future.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.