[Review] – A Thousand Words

7 Apr

Title: A Thousand Words
Year: 2012
Director: Brian Robbins
Writer: Steve Koren
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington, Clark Duke, Cliff Curtis, Allison Janney, Ruby Dee, John Witherspoon, Steve Little, Ariel Winter, Jack McBrayer
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual situations including dialogue, language and some drug-related humor
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 4.3
Rotten Tomatoes: 0%
Metacritic: 26

Eddie Murphy‘s been angling at a comeback for quite some time now, and the fact is that it just seems like it won’t happen for him. This man was once one of the most unique and freshest voices in comedy; a vital part of the SNL cast in the early eighties, the star of 48 Hrs. and Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop, and a truly undeniable force as a stand-up comedian. And yet, I think it’s safe to say that, with the exception of the first couple of Shrek movies in which he voices Donkey, Eddie Murphy hasn’t been funny since Bowfinger. And that was in 1999.

It really is pretty baffling to think Eddie Murphy has become this. People may remember the performance he gave in Bill Condon‘s Dreamgirls back in 2006; it was a pretty great turn that won him a handful of awards, including the Golden Globe and the SAG, and then he was suddently the front-runner for the Oscar, surely something that would go a long ways to reviving his career, but then he lost the award to (a much more deserving) Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine. Instead of taking Dreamgirls and the success it brought him to sort of follow that same path, the movie he followed that up with was the excruciating Norbit, which won Mr. Murphy three Razzie’s (for Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Supporting Actress in the film in which he played three characters).

After Norbit came Meet Dave and Imagine That, which were both seriously bad. But then last year it seemed like he was ready for a comeback, and he was taking it seriously this time. He signed on to host the Oscars for producer Brett Ratner, who had just directed him in Tower Heist. Well, we know what happened in Ratner-gate, he left the Oscar’s as a producer and Eddie Murphy went out the door with him. But Tower Heist was a film I actually liked (I gave it a B), and more importantly, I though it was a step firmly in the right direction for Mr. Murphy. There were glimpses of his old genius here, certainly the funniest he’d been since the aforementioned Bowfinger, and it gave me hope for a career revival.

Well, apparently my hopes were for naught, since Mr. Murphy just gave us A Thousand Words, which is one of the worst films of the year so far. In fact it’ll be the third film of 2012 to which I’ll give the lowest grade I can give, and I only gave that grade to two films in all of last year. You could argue that this isn’t that big of a roadblock to what Mr. Murphy showed in Tower Heist because A Thousand Words was actually shot way back in 2008 (which makes some of the jokes here sound really dated). But still that’s no excuse to how unbelievably dumb this whole production is.

The general conceit is that we have Jack McCall, Mr. Murphy’s character, a super successful literary agent who can talk his way into getting any deal he wants. And the deal he really wants to get is that of Dr. Sinja, a New Age guru who’s on to Jack’s selfishness. And then, all of a sudden, a magical Bodhi tree appears in Jack’s backyard, and he realizes that every time he says a word a leave falls off the tree; which of course means that, by the time he says a thousand words the tree will be left with no leaves, and he’ll die along with it. So of course the film will then be all about how the showboat guy who’s been able to talk his way into anything then deals with not being able to communicate and get a lesson in readjusting his priorities in life..

There are two big problems with the plot. One is that it’s so poorly told to begin with; you can sense where everything is going way before it’s even set into motion, every little emotion you’re supposed to get from a scene is pushed hard by the director, and every thing is done in the simplest of ways and announced time and time again so you can easily follow this one along. The other, big, big mistake the film makes is taking away Eddie Murphy’s ability to speak; this is a guy who has a big part of his comedic effect coming from the way he speaks and how he can just talk and talk and here’s mute, trying to pull off funny faces that aren’t really his thing.

A Thousand Words is one of the worst films of the year. Written by Steve Koren who last year was responsible for the train wreck that was Jack and Jill (which I also gave a D- to), and directed by Brian Robbins who also directed Mr. Murphy in the aforementioned Norbit and Meet Dave. Taking in those ingredients I guess you could say it was to be expected that this film would turn out like it did, but I really do want Eddie Murphy back so I had some small hope left. Well, I guess you could say all hope is lost after seeing this one, a film that robbed its star from his best asset, that was super obvious in its attempts, and that never once landed a single joke or deliver a significant message.

Grade: D-


4 Responses to “[Review] – A Thousand Words”

  1. AndyWatchesMovies April 7, 2012 at 11:35 pm #

    Good on you for even being able to sit through it. I have a hard enough time making it through the trailers.

    • ArtfullyBedraggled April 8, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Haha, yeah, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do not to walk out of that movie.

  2. Austin Bishop April 8, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Ouch! I too hope for a day to come where I can sit through an Eddie Murphy movie and find it to be an enjoyable experience. It has been a long while since he’s been in anything genuinely funny. Poor Eddie.

    • ArtfullyBedraggled April 8, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Totally agree. Over a decade since I last found him funny, and watching his stand-up stuff from way back when only makes me more frustrated about the stuff he’s putting out now.

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