A Thousand Words
Movie Review of A Thousand Words
There was a time---many, MANY years ago---when putting Eddie Murphy in a movie was guaranteed to equal a big box office return and lots of laughs. Lately, however, it’s hit or miss, and---let’s be honest---quite a bit more miss than hit. Years after the fact, I am still trying to scrub the images of “Norbit” from my brain. However, I still find myself holding out hope that he will redeem himself from the long list of stinkers that have plagued the theaters since the mid ‘90’s. And despite my ever present sarcasm, I am an optimist at heart, and chose to give Mr. Murphy another shot at things by seeing his new film, “A Thousand Words”.
THE GOOD: Jack McCall (Murphy) is a big time publishing agent who spends his days smooth talking potential clients, while ignoring or belittling everyone else in his life. His main focus is himself, and he has no problem saying whatever he needs to in order to close the deal. But Jack is about to meet Karma, in the form of a tree----a tree whose life is, inexplicably, tied to his own. When he speaks, leaves fall from the tree, and he soon realizes that when those leaves disappear, he and the tree are both goners. What follows are semi-creative attempts to function in everyday interactions (professional, family and public) without uttering a word. As expected, complications are abundant, and Jack realizes he has to find a way to fix everything with as few words as possible.
There isn’t a lot to rave about in this film, but I have to admit I was more than a little impressed with the young actor who plays Jack’s secretary/assistant, Aaron (Clark Duke). In those moments when Murphy is forced into silence, Duke shows promise with his “young Michael J. Fox-esque” awkwardness and voice. There may be a future for this boy---although that may not be the case for Eddie.
THE BAD: I understand the point that the writers were trying to make with this idea, I really do. It’s all about making what we say actually MATTER, and finding the words that help others more than ourselves. The problem is that they weren’t very clear about their moral until the last 15 minutes of the film. To be fair, for a movie that had so little to offer for almost it’s entire lifespan, I felt some genuine emotion towards the end. It’s just a case of too little too late. And, aside from the corniness of a magical tree sprouting up overnight in your yard, the main problem with the whole film is that Eddie Murphy is SILENT during a fair portion of it. We all know that he can be hysterical and has delivered some pretty memorable lines in the past, but a physical comedian he is NOT, so even with all the crazy faces and sign language he attempts in order to communicate, it fell flat without his trademark sarcastic wit…..although I’m not sure even some well placed lines could have saved this one, unless Murphy could have used those lines to make fun of the movie itself. That might have been fun.
THE UGLY: I suppose this next point is subject to debate, but it’s my personal opinion that the raunchy, albeit brief, S & M scene between Jack and his wife was not integral to the plot of the movie and was basically unneeded. It just added one more awkward moment of Murphy saying nothing. Axle Foley would have at least given us a witty comment about the leather underwear.
The bottom line is that “A Thousand Words” doesn’t hit an all time low for Eddie Murphy---I think that ship might have sailed with “Pluto Nash”---but it certainly isn’t his finest performance by a long shot either. The good news is that he doesn’t attempt to play numerous characters---but one of his strongest talents is his mouthiness---take that away and it’s an uncomfortable silence.
The Trophy Wife gives this movie 2 trophies.
A Thousand Words has a running time of 91 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sexual situations including dialogue, language and some drug-related humor. (F word used once)