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The Sci-Fi Comedy That Ruined Eddie Murphy's Career

Throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, you would have been hard pressed to find an actor with quite as successful a box office record as Eddie Murphy. 

The legendary funny man cut his teeth as a key player on "Saturday Night Live" in the early eighties, but by the middle of the decade, he was on the fast track to Hollywood's A-list via a string of hit films like "48 Hours," "Trading Places," and "Beverly Hills Cop." Minus a couple of embarrassing missteps (i.e. "Beverly Hills Cop III" and "Vampire in Brooklyn"), the hits mostly kept coming for Murphy in the nineties, thanks to such now-beloved films as "Boomerang," "The Nutty Professor," and "Dr. Dolittle," to name a few. Meanwhile, the dawn of the new millennium found Murphy scoring one of his biggest hits date as the voice of Donkey in 2001's animated smash "Shrek," and even sharing the screen with Mr. Robert De Niro (in 2001's "Showtime"). 

However, just a year later the beloved actor and comedian found himself about as far from the A-list as you could get, and he had one movie to thank for the dramatic fall from grace: an oddball sci-fi comedy from 2002 that remains one of the biggest box office flops in history.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash was a monumental flop for Eddie Murphy

2002's space-themed camp-fest "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" mustered a mere $7 million dollars in worldwide box office during its theatrical release, doing so against a reported budget of $100 million (per Box Office Mojo). And no, the film's extraordinary box office failure wasn't a case of moviegoers not being ready for its out-there (and then some) levels of silliness, with critics and audiences alike ranking "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" among the worst-reviewed movies Murphy has ever appeared in (via Rotten Tomatoes). As written by Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post, "The result is something quite rare in professional show business: 1 1/2 hours of pure blankness. It's there but it's not there. It is but it isn't. It has nothing to offer."

For most actors, a failure like that would be the definition of "career killer." While Murphy has certainly been scratching out a living in the years since "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" was released, he's certainly never regained the same stature he had prior. Even still, in true funnyman fashion Murphy offered his own revisionist take on the film's legacy during a 2016 SAG-Aftra Q&A session stating, "I don't say I've had moves that flopped anymore. Anything that you got do to, that they put it on the screen, that they gave you some paper ... that's a f***ing hit." Murphy went to joke his family hardly shuns "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" the way most do, "In my house we have 'Pluto Nash' week. We celebrate 'Pluto Nash.'"

That's easy enough to say nearly two decades after its release. However, one has to imagine unfathomable failure of "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" had to sting a little bit more back in 2002 than it does today.