Memorable male makeovers in movies

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Although the makeover movie genre often thrusts men into padded superhero suits, the silver screen has offered up a handful of memorable male metamorphoses that required little more than a change of clothes, a shift of the shoulder and an attitude adjustment. Among some of the standouts:

“The Nutty Professor” (1963)

Jerry Lewis didn’t need no stinkin’ fat suit in the original version of his Jekyll and Hyde romp (later remade starring Eddie Murphy in said fat suit). Lewis transformed his character with just buckteeth and a bowl cut for the nerdy before and an eye-catching blue tuxedo, pink shirt and smoldering swagger for the after.

“Superman” (1978)

While it fits neatly into the superhero transformation model, “Superman” is worth mentioning here because Christopher Reeve had to shift between being the last son of Krypton and playing the bumbling Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent without the benefit of today’s rubberized suits, latex muscles and CGI wizardry. Even so, when he slumped those shoulders and let the glasses slide down his nose, even the audience forgot he was Superman.


“Rain Man” (1988)

Tom Cruise is the one dressed to the nines for most of the movie. But when Dustin Hoffman’s character trades in his wardrobe of windbreakers and washed out polos to hit the casino floor in a double-breasted, peak-lapel jacket, he takes it all the way up to eleven. (The scene’s so memorable, it’s spoofed in “The Hangover.”)

“Groundhog Day” (1993)

In this classic example of the “better man” makeover, Bill Murray hardly changes clothes as he relives the same day over and over again. Yet as his dour demeanor softens, a thousand subtle signs telegraph the transformation, as seen in the way he walks, talks, combs his hair and even smiles.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” (1987)

It’s a toss-up which is the better makeover, Patrick Dempsey over the run of the movie or Patrick Dempsey over the run of his career, but the crash-course in a high school cool is well worth the thousand bucks he offers the school’s popular cheerleader to pretend to be his girlfriend so he can break out of his nerd-dom.

“The Shape of Things” (2003)

As dark and mean-spirited a makeover as there ever was, art student Rachel Weisz starts to mold nerdy boyfriend Paul Rudd into someone else, a process that includes rhinoplasty — and a surprise ending.

“Avatar” (2009)

Although it doesn’t happen until the end of the movie, paraplegic soldier Jake Sully’s decision to permanently leave his withered husk of a human body behind and live on as his Na’vi avatar is a male movie makeover of titanic proportions.

“Larry Crowne” (2011)

Navy vet Tom Hanks gets a mid-life reboot thanks to a community college cutie named Talia, who sets him up with a radical wardrobe overhaul (featuring a messenger bag and black leather jacket), a haircut and even feng shui for his cluttered house. The result? He gains self-confidence and ends up locking lips with Julia Roberts. (Note: Results not typical.)

“Crazy Stupid Love” (2011)

In the male makeover movie by which the fashion quotient of all future ones should be measured, Ryan Gosling’s player takes away Steve Carell’s rumpled corduroy blazers, New Balance running shoes and outsized polo shirts and replaces them with tailored luxury labels Canali, Zegna and Burberry. It’s definitely the summer’s must-see movie for anyone with a fashion-challenged male friend.