Today’s feature is one of the most widely-maligned Eddie Murphy features: The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
The screenplay for Pluto Nash was written by Neil Cuthbert, who also penned the beloved Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, the superhero flub Mystery Men, and The Return of Swamp Thing.
The director for The Adventures of Pluto Nash was Ron Underwood, whose other directorial credits include Tremors, In The Mix, Mighty Joe Young, Stealing Sinatra, Speechless, City Slickers, and Heart and Souls. However, following a string of failures (not the least of which was Pluto Nash), he has been relegated to doing a whole lot of assorted television work over the past ten years, including stints on shows like Ugly Betty, Heroes, Burn Notice, Castle, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..
The cinematographer for the film was Oliver Wood, who has historically specialized in shooting action movies and comedies. His credits include Die Hard 2, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Face/Off, Sister Act 2, The Bourne Identity, Anchorman 2, and U-571, among many others.
Pluto Nash had two credited editors: Alan Heim (American History X, Copycat, Bless The Child, Network, The Twelve Chairs) and Paul Hirsch (Lake Placid, Falling Down, Footloose, Carrie, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).
The team of producers for Pluto Nash included Bruce Berman (Deep Blue Sea, Red Planet, Swordfish, Torque), Martin Bregman (Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Matilda), Frank Capra III (Eraser, Bulworth, Drive), and Louis A. Stroller (Scarface, Carrie, Snake Eyes)
The musical score for the movie was composed by John Powell, who has provided music for such films as Be Cool, Face/Off, Shrek, Antz, Rat Race, Gigli, Happy Feet, Paycheck, and the recent 2015 flop, Pan.
The makeup effects work for Pluto Nash was done by a team that included Jocelyn Bellemare (300, The Fountain), Annik Boivin (Battlefield Earth, The Aviator), Vera Steimberg Moder (The Haunted Mansion, Norbit), and Sylvania Yau (Taking Lives, Timeline).
The experienced special effects unit for the film included common elements with productions like The Sixth Sense, Van Helsing, Ghost Dad, They Live, The Running Man, The Thing, Cellular, Wild Wild West, Congo, Last Action Hero, Rhinestone, Jurassic Park, Spider-Man, The Golden Child, Driven, Jingle All The Way, Death To Smoochy, and Jason X, among many others.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash required an immense amount of visual effects work, which was provided by a number of different companies. These included Flash Film Works (Death To Smoochy, Red Planet, Deep Blue Sea), and Cinesite (Edge of Tomorrow, World War Z), as well as a handful of other post-production companies.
The cast of Pluto Nash includes Eddie Murphy (Vampire In Brooklyn, Beverly Hills Cop, The Nutty Professor, Saturday Night Live), Rosario Dawson (Clerks II, Death Proof), Randy Quaid (Kingpin, Christmas Vacation 2, The Last Detail), Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, The Departed, Beetlejuice), Jay Mohr (Suicide Kings, Small Soldiers), Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix, Memento), Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights), James Rebhorn (Cat’s Eye, The Game, Independence Day), Pam Grier (Class of 1999, Jackie Brown), John Cleese (Monty Python’s Flying Circus), Burt Young (Rocky, Going Overboard), and Peter Boyle (The Dream Team, Red Heat, Young Frankenstein).
In the future, a man struggles to keep his lunar nightclub out of the hands of the mafia.
Reportedly, the screenplay for Pluto Nash went through countless rewrites over the course of its production, though Neil Cuthbert ultimately had the unfortunate privilege of receiving sole credit for writing the movie.
Alec Baldwin, who plays a not-insignificant role in the movie, hated the ultimate product so intensely that he managed to have his name entirely taken out of the movie’s credits.
The Adult Swim comedy show Robot Chicken had a popular sketch that played off of the disastrous reception to Pluto Nash, in which numerous scenes of carnage and violence are shown breaking out following the opening of the movie, causing the government to officially declare “Pluto Nash Day” to remember the dead.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is widely remembered in the public consciousness as one of the greatest financial failures in movie history. In total, it lost a shocking $95 million dollars, grossing less than $5 million in its theatrical run on a $100 million budget. As you might expect, the public reception wasn’t any better: it currently holds an IMDb user rating of 3.7, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 5% from critics and 17% from audiences.
There are certainly a lot of issues with The Adventures of Pluto Nash, but the biggest one is probably the lack of humor in the script. On paper, this movie should be an action-comedy, but somehow none of the comedy wound up getting through. Outside of some quirky set design and an oddball soundtrack, there’s nothing about the movie that resembles even an attempt at comedy. Eddie Murphy, who is usually the comedic center of his movies, plays a too-cool-for-school straight man, which isn’t something he does well. The closest thing he has in the movie to a comedic foil is Jay Mohr, who is also playing against type as an incompetent buffoon. The result is a theoretically comedic movie with hardly any laughs.
It is hard to imagine that anyone involved with Pluto Nash expected it to be a hit after seeing the final product. However, I don’t think anyone anticipated that it would fail as spectacularly as it did: I’m sure a loss was expected, but usually a movie with a significant budget is guaranteed some minimum gross from advertising. Somehow, that went totally awry for Pluto Nash, in spite of a lack of serious competition in the field of new releases.
Outside of watching this movie for the sake of the experience and cultural knowledge, there’s nothing particularly entertaining about it. Eddie Murphy, who is capable of bringing comedy to movies devoid of laughs (The Golden Child), totally fails to deliver in Pluto Nash. He seems too wrapped up in appearing cool that he forgot to provide any of his comedic talents to the movie.