The Nutty Professor: Why Student-Teacher Relationships Are Cool

Moving on to our next film!  The Nutty Professor is a 1963 comedy classic starring none other than Jerry Lewis.  It's a turn on the Jekyll and Hyde story, but one that plays it for laughs rather than horrified anguish.  TSPTD puts it at #837 on their list.

Full Disclosure: I've been watching this movie since I was a little kid, so I'm going into this review predisposed to like it.  But I can't stand the remake, if that makes any difference.  Also, did you know that they made an animated sequel about Professor Kelp's grandson, and it actually has Jerry Lewis in it?  Boggles the mind...

Julius Kelp is a chemistry professor at university, and he's probably one of the most uncoordinated, goofy, and tragically nerdy characters committed to film.  His own students bully him.  He tries to go to the gym so he can get stronger and not be such a target, but even that seems wrought with difficulties.  When that idea fails, he turns to the one thing he knows best: chemistry.  Kelp creates a magical potion that will make him cool and desirable for a specific amount of time.

So there's this weird long transformation scene.  I think it's going for a parody of old school horror films, but it's really long and feels out of place tonally.  I mean seriously, look at this.

But you can't have everything.  As silly as it is, I can't help but love the reveal when Kelp (as Buddy Love, his super hep cat swinger or whatever they called it in those days alter ego) shows up at the Purple Pit. After the overwrought with horror transformation scene, we're expecting a monster to walk through those doors.  But instead it's Jerry Lewis...doing a Dean Martin impression?

Buddy Love is kind of a tool (and when I say kind of a tool, I mean he's pretty much the biggest, most arrogant dick on the planet).  He tells off the three football players who were jerks to him in class, and he hits on Stella, a girl in his chemistry class (awkward).  But I would be lying if I said I wasn't rooting for him.  Buddy sings "That Old Black Magic" for the crowd (give credit where credit's due, Jerry Lewis actually has a very nice singing voice), and they eat it up.  Except for Stella, who is interested in Buddy, but still calls him out when he's being self-involved or just plain being a jerk.  He starts to smooth talk her -- but then the potion starts to wear off and he books.

But he keeps up the act, mostly so he can continue his relationship with Stella.  And when the college students need a performer for their senior dance, they naturally want him, but Dr Warfield insists on meeting Buddy Love before he'll approve.  So they have a meeting, and somehow Buddy manages to get him on a table acting out Hamlet...with his pants pulled down?  I don't care how much of a jerk Buddy is, that's pretty impressive.

Unfortunately, as it always seems to happen in these types of movies, both Kelp and Buddy Love are required at the dance; Kelp as a chaperone, Love as the entertainment.  But just as he's about to switch from Kelp to Love, he gets back to the lab and discovers that Jennifer has eaten the formula for his potion.  So he has to call his parents to get a copy of the formula, but doesn't have time to make enough to get all the way through his performance.

So while Buddy is singing in front of the entire senior class, he turns into Professor Kelp.

But Kelp saves it with a heartfelt speech, and no one really seems to be mad at him.  Stella still likes him, and subtle as a nuclear attack, tells him that she'd rather be married to a professor than someone like Buddy Love.  Jumping the gun a bit there, Stel!  But they're in love, and live happily ever after.

But wait!  It's not over yet!  Apparently Kelp's dad figured out how to make the potion (now he's abusing his wife instead of the other way around...charming) and he's selling it for $1 a bottle.  Kelp's concerned, but Stella convinces him that it's not their problem, and that they should just focus on getting married.  And that's the end.

Random Musings:

  • OMG this movie is so ridiculously dated, I love it.  Seriously, this film should be in a time capsule.

  • I love that the professor in the opening credits is just mixing chemicals, with no gloves on, and doesn't seem to mind when a chemical reaction causes it to bubble over onto his hands.  I'm not a scientist or anything, but...that is not proper lab procedure.

  • The president of the university says that he doesn't want any faculty members conducting their own experiments.  But isn't that kind of why scientists become college they have access to the labs for their experiments?

  • Seriously?  This douchebag football player assaults a university professor and then just goes on with the rest of his day?  He isn't, you know, brought up on criminal charges or, at the very least, expelled?  And the rest of the class just sits there, giggling?  These kids are a bunch of assholes!

  • Why is there a Charles Atlas ad in a copy of Allure?  Surely that's not their target demographic.

  • I'm noticing in the gym scene all these mammoth guys towering over Professor Kelp.  But Jerry Lewis was 6 feet tall, and they make him look tiny!  They must have put an ad out for Hagrids or something.

  • Ummm...why does Kelp have a creepy ominous bird named Jennifer?  That strikes me as odd...


  • I love watching Jerry Lewis throw punches.  It amuses me in a very deep and special place in my heart.

  • Dude, take the cigarette out of your mouth if you're gonna dance with a girl.  That is just not classy.

  • "You're crazy about me, right?  And I can understand it.  Only this morning, looking in the mirror before shaving, I enjoyed seeing what I saw so much I couldn't tear myself away.  *kisses his hand* Have some, baby?"  It's not fair, I wish there were really people out there who talked like this.  I can't hate Buddy after's just too funny.

  • I have to hand it to Jerry Lewis...after hearing his Buddy Love voice (which is obviously much closer to his real voice), it's pretty impressive to hear him go back to the Kelp's just so different and jarring.

  • I love that Stella has a little bit of sass and actually comes off as intelligent...she's more than willing to tell Buddy off when he's being an idiot.  So many of the blondes from the early 60s would have just been dumb bimbos, and it's nice that she's something a little different.

  • OK, the flashback to Kelp's childhood is one of the saddest, most surreal things I've ever seen.  Seriously, remind me why they felt it was necessary to have Jerry Lewis actually play the two year old version of himself?

  • OMG, I remember when I was a kid I couldn't watch the scenes when he was Buddy Love but started to turn back into Kelp.  I was so embarrassed for him I just couldn't handle it!

  • The scene where Kelp comes to class hungover is possibly one of the best things I've ever experienced.  I love the part where he starts to lecture but has to stop because he just can't handle the sound of his own voice.

  • So let's talk about the real message of the film.  Stella insists that she wants to be with Kelp, but when Kelp's dad shows up with the "Kelp's Cool Tonic" she doesn't hesitate to buy a couple bottles before they leave to get married.  Kind of sending mixed signals, aren't you there?

  • I really like the end credits, where there's a curtain call at the end.  It's pretty unusual, and I just think it works really well.

So that is The Nutty Professor.  Completely and utterly Jerry Lewis' baby, and for the most part he carries it pretty well.  I don't hate Buddy Love, which is a testament to Lewis' work, because it would be pretty easy to  hate this guy.  Both characters manage to have some depth, and you can kind of see how they're extensions of the same person.  Some of the more physical comedy gets a little daunting for me personally, because it's not really my style of humor, but I think it hits the mark far more often than it misses.  It's dated and silly, but in an endearing kind of way.  I don't know, it's just such a harmless film that I don't see how you could actively dislike it.  And it's got some marvelous supporting characters, especially Dr Warfield and his secretary Ms. Lemmon.  They always make me laugh.  Overall I think it's a pretty darn good film, and one that might not constantly be laugh out loud funny, but is definitely entertaining.

Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari!

Want to know more about the Top 1000 List?  Check it out and see if your favorites are here! They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?

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