Bruce Fretts
December 27, 1996 AT 05:00 AM EST

After watching his box office receipts start to dwindle, Eddie Murphy didn’t get mad — he got fat. As the corpulent Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor, the actor scored a hit as big as his waistline. Now the words Eddie Murphy and Oscar are being mentioned in the same sentence for the first time. In fact, many of 1996’s greatest big- and small-screen turns were made by men of a certain weight. Consider:

FAT GUY AS FLAWED HERO NYPD Blue’s Dennis Franz and Cracker ‘s Robbie Coltrane wear their heft as a symbol of their weakness. Even as they take a bite out of crime, they can’t win the battle of the bulge.

FAT GUY AS SCARY NUTCASE As a mobster in The Funeral, Chris Penn uses his bulk to intimidate his enemies — and his family members. You can’t help but feel extra sympathy for his wife (Isabella Rossellini).

FAT GUY AS LOVABLE LOSER The Drew Carey Show ‘s star seems as proud of his doughboy physique as he is of his hometown Indians, which makes him all the more huggable. And as a shy short-order cook in Heavy, Pruitt Taylor Vince gets to make out with Liv Tyler.

This megatrend looms large for 1997 as well. Not for nothing did Sly Stallone pack on 35 pounds for his upcoming comeback in Copland. Face it, fellas: Size does matter.

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