The Adventures of Pluto Nash

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 Hour and 35 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: B-

Sometimes, a film slides into the multiplexes already smelling of defeat. Some movies come out simply because they have to. They don't really get released, they just escape. They get no real advertising, they get no real hype. They're the sort of films that you see listed in the newspaper and you reply with a stunned "That came out!" or "What is that?!"

"Pluto Nash" is the latest film to be included in this strange phenomena. I've heard the title, and heard rumblings about it for what seems like several years now. It stars Eddie Murphy and has a supporting cast which includes Joe Pantoliano, Luiz Guzman, Burt Young and Randy Quaid. It's got a lot of special (and, yes, to be honest, not so special) effects in it. It's set on the moon and directed by Ron Underwood (the man behind the brilliant "Tremors" and the comic gem "City Slickers"). So why does it feel like the sort of film where there is practically an apology taped to the bottom of the poster. Sure, it's not breaking any new ground. It certainly isn't more than a couple notches above routine. But it's better than "Men in Black 2" or, God help us, "Eight Legged Freaks". It deserves better than this bottom of the basement, let's-release-it-and-get-this-over-with sort of vibe.

"Pluto Nash" is the story of a night club owner on the Moon (Eddie Murphy). A large conglomerate is muscling him into selling his club. Pluto, the club-owner, refuses. His night club explodes. Pluto and his friends then spring into action to find the party or parties responsible for the detonation of his night club and force them to make amends. The plot is just that simple. It isn't an epic tale, to be sure. But at least there isn't the standard device of one of Pluto's buddies or wife being killed or kidnapped and him having to seek revenge or save them. His night club blows up and he's agitated. That's about it. But that's sorta refreshing, in a rehashed sort of way.

The movie isn't drop-dead funny, but it is rather clever. Much of the dialogue and many of the situations elicit genuine smiles, even if they don't cause one to bust their gut. Much of this stuff is stuff we have seen before in some incarnation, but there is always a clever little pun or visual gag or a nice reference to keep one occupied. Plus, with the seemingly limitless cast of famous and interesting people that just keep popping up during the course of this film, it becomes amusing simply on that level. The film is laid back almost to the point of laziness, and it never takes itself as seriously as maybe it should. I know it isn't much, but the people inhabiting these universe never seem overly concerned about it either. It's sorta refreshing, though, to see a movie where the characters don't have to scream their points, where the production seems to have been mounted with care: the Moon looks like an absolute shithole here, but it's on purpose and it's a great gag. It is, after all, a tourist trap without gravity in this film. It's like Las Vegas with Oxygen domes, complete with its own version of Frank Sinatra (Jay Mohr, crooning convincingly).

It's not an amazing film. When it comes out on DVD, it's the sort of movie you might put on just as background noise. But Eddie Murphy hits subtle notes in his portrayal of Pluto, Rosario Dawson is required to do more and to better effect than in "Men in Black 2" (though she and Will Smith had better chemistry than she and Eddie do), there is a nice game of futuristic pool between Eddie and Peter Boyle and you get to see Pam Grier kick some ass as Pluto's caring mother. Oh, and I loved Randy Quaid as a horny, outdated robot with huge guns and a borderline creepy smile. Whenever he was onscreen, I smiled. I can't give him much more credit than that, but that was enough to make me happy.

I wasn't expecting a lot from "Pluto Nash" (the film's studio and ad campaign seem to have fostered such diminished expectations) and I didn't get anything ingenious. But I did have a pleasant time. Sure, there are better things than merely "pleasant". But, as anyone who had to sit through "Eight Legged Freaks" will attest, there are far worse things than that too.