The Nutty Professor is not one of Jerry Lewis’ better films. Although attractively mounted and performed with flair by a talented cast, the production is only fitfully funny. Too often the film bogs down in pointless, irrelevant or repetitious business, nullifying the flavor of the occasionally choice comic capers and palsying the tempo and continuity of the story.
The star is cast as a meek, homely, accident-prone chemistry prof who concocts a potion that transforms him into a handsome, cocky, obnoxiously vain ‘cool cat’ type. But the transfiguration is of the Jekyll-Hyde variety in that it wears off, restoring Lewis to the original mold, invariably at critical, embarrassing moments.
Another standard characteristic of the Lewis film is its similarity to an animated cartoon, especially noticeable on this occasion in that the professor played by Lewis is a kind of live-action version of the nearsighted Mr Magoo.
Musical theme of the picture is the beautiful refrain ‘Stella by Starlight’. By starlight or any other light, Stella is beautiful – Stella Stevens, that is, who portrays the professor’s student admirer. Stevens is not only gorgeous, she is a very gifted actress. This was an exceptionally tough assignment, requiring of her almost exclusively silent reaction takes, and Stevens has managed almost invariably to produce the correct responsive expression. On her, even the incorrect one would look good.