Take a moment to consider the following: The Adventures of Pluto Nash had a robust budget of $100M and managed to gross only $4.41 million at the box office (total loss of $95.59 million), making it the largest financial loss of any motion picture to date.
With such a dubious distinction, one would naturally expect the film to be a complete and utter disaster and yet, it was because of the negativity surrounding this project that I found myself intrigued. This is a science fiction comedy after all, with a star-studded cast led by Eddie Murphy no less. Despite reading a crop of reviews that only further cemented the notion that the film was horrid, I went and ordered the DVD to find out once and for all what this un-hype was really all about.
Written originally in 1985 (when Eddie Murphy was on fire so to speak), the Pluto Nash script is said to have gone through a dozen different writers before the final draft, which is credited only to Neil Cuthbert (of Mystery Men fame).
The film tells the tale of a lunar colony in the year 2080 called Little America and a retired smuggler by the name of Pluto Nash (Eddie Murphy). The picture opens with Nash visiting an old friend, club owner Anthony Frankowski (played pretty perfectly by a dark-haired Jay Mohr).
Nash advises Frankowski to switch up his style and take on a stage name in effort to gain popularity with potential fans. Moments later while Nash is leaving the restroom (which is eerily reminiscent to the restrooms of the garage that installs my tires), he discovers a few loan sharks: Gino (Burt Young) and Larry (Lillo Brancato) attempting to knock-off the delinquent Frankowski by forcing him to ingest battery acid. Nash, a lifelong criminal himself, recognizes one of the assailants and suggests that rather than kill Frankowki, to sell the club to him (it turns out being a nightclub owner has been a longtime wish of Nash’s).
Seven years after the transaction, "Club Pluto" has grown into one of the moon’s hottest clubs and happens to find itself situated smack dab in the middle of one of the last legal gambling spots in the universe. Run byNash himself, with the protection of an android named Bruno, of the obsolete Model 63 Deluxe variety (played by a nearly unrecognizable Randy Quaid).
In essence what we have here is a futuristic-set 1950’s nightclub noir film, complete with betrayals, mobsters, crooked Feds, and shootouts (sorry no laser Tommy-guns here though).
Oliver Wood is credited with the cinematography work and honestly; it comes off as a pretty classy effort. Pluto Nash was directed by Ron Underwood, who’s past credits include the cult sci-fi hit Tremors, City Slickers and Disney’s Mighty Joe Young.
The pacing of the (95-minute) film is light and breezy and comes off as pretty darn enjoyable throughout. Even the effects, which I was certain would prove to be the chink in this film’s proverbial armor, were solid throughout. Even the comedy element isn’t overdone or over-the-top but rather comes in the form of some clever dialog and a few puns (most of the soundtrack features songs about the moon and, for example, in one scene a man is shown eating a Moon Pie).
Perhaps the greatest strength of the production, however, comes in the form of the ending, which includes a clever and nicely presented plot twist that will likely catch first-time viewers off guard.
Truth be told, the negative press the film managed to accumulate is, in my opinion anyway, largely unjustified. The piece is guilty of no greater crimes than those committed in films such as The Fifth Element or Total Recall and could probably be classified in the same grouping of entertainment if pushed was the issue. In that line of thinking, it’s entirely possible that much of the film’s failures can be attributed to Eddie Murphy’s association with the whole thing- not to suggest his performance was lacking (it certainly was not) but rather fans of his likely expected the equivalent of Beverly Hills Cop in space going in. Instead Pluto Nash comes off as a light-hearted science fiction romp that would likely have been quite beloved had someone like Bruce Willis or even Will Smith been cast as the title character.
As it stands, a definite shame that this picture bombed the way it did (thankfully DVD revenue was much more promising than initial box office reception) as convincing the major studios to back science fiction in any form is often considered an uphill battle as it is! It’s rare that I say this but if an hour and a half of lighthearted lunar gangster action is what you suspect your evening may be lacking, ignore the press on this one!
What did you think of this review?