A Thousand Words (2012) Paramount Pictures
1 hr. 31 mins.
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Kerry Washington, Clark Duke, Allison Janney, Terence Bernie Hines, Jack McBrayer, Ruby Dee
Directed by: Brian Robbins
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy/Spiritual Fantasy
Critic’s Rating: * star (out of 4 stars)
Veteran funnyman Eddie Murphy continues to partake in these woeful assembly line comedies that predictably register with a big thud. Murphy’s latest yuck-it-up monstrosity-A Thousand Words-certainly will leave one hopelessly speechless. Convincingly unoriginal, desperate, lazy and thoroughly insipid, A Thousand Words is utterly painful in every syllable. This is a low rent laugher with high-minded aspirations of being another Murphy-oriented misfire to join the ranks of other forgettable farces. Anyone care to go down memory lane with the comedian’s flaccid fare that included such damaged ditties as The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Vampire in Brooklyn, The Haunted Mansion, Dr. Dolittle 2 and Imagine That?
Director Brian Robbins, who oversaw Murphy’s tiresome antics in critical duds such as Meet Dave and Norbit, gives the jokester the embarrassing reins to shamelessly mug it up in this current flop complete with nonsensical bulging eyes and idiotic comical gestures too trivial to describe. Watching Murphy do his exhausting charades on screen is torturous to say the least. The gimmick is rather obvious-witnessing a garrulous Murphy being silenced while physically straining to break out in his gabby mode. The consensus: unfunny and unimaginative.
Interestingly, A Thousand Words was actually made in 2008 and was probably released this year to take advantage of Eddie Murphy’s expected 2012 hosting duties of the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony (Murphy declined to participate when producer Brett Ratner dropped out due to some behind-the-scenes controversy). This wordless wasteland of a film recalls familiar touches of Jim Carrey’s Liar, Liar and Bruce Almighty but is simply a poor man’s copycat of these serviceable farces. Tedious and tepid, A Thousand Words is about as appetizing as a mute sporting a sore throat.
Murphy plays a self-absorbed, fast-talking literary agent named Jack McCall. He is wealthy and has the trappings of a decent life that includes a lovely wife Caroline (Kerry Washington) and precious baby boy. Jack has, however, a fatal character flaw-he’s obnoxious and insensitive to the needs of those around him. The flimsy way he conducts business with his author clients is unethical and disingenuous. Plus he treats those close to him like dirt-particularly Caroline and his suffering assistant (Clark Duke). Jack’s selfish mannerisms persist at an alarming rate but hey…who can argue with the success that he attains effortlessly from his routine shenanigans?
The opportunist Jack McCall has one specific coup in mind-to nab the popular New Age guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) as his latest literary meal ticket. He does not care about the subject matter or effectiveness regarding Dr. Sinja’s teachings or ideologies…Jack just wants to latch onto this philosophical “phenom” and soak in the profits of this association. All insincerity aside, Jack joins a pro-Sinja yoga group laced with the typical meditation nuances. Soon Jack’s agenda is realized as he finally gets to publish Dr. Sinja’s book after faking his zen-like inspiration.
In time, Jack gets his comeuppance when a mystical Bodhi tree is situated in his yard. A curse is established whenever a leaf falls off the tree due to Jack’s spoken word. The understanding is quite ominous to Jack-once all the leaves disappear from the tree spells that it is curtains for one dire and insufferable literary agent with huckster-oriented ambitions. Naturally, Jack cannot afford to utter another word unless he wants to stay alive. Thus he must find inventive means to communicate his feelings and thoughts to others. And so goes the exaggerated bits where Jack’s feeble attempts to reach out are misinterpreted and misunderstood by clueless bystanders.
A Thousand Words perhaps may have been intended to be a message comedy about picking your words wisely and knowing when not to overstay your welcome in verbiage. Indeed this would have been a hysterical afterthought. But this mirthless movie is too scattershot and predictably inane to convey such conviction. The comical situations are pat and forcibly labored. The banality of Murphy’s moronic miming throughout this sparse spiritualist slapstick is intrusive and idiotic. Even when the film tries to be touching amid the high-maintenance hokum the results are awkwardly received. The ham-fisted high jinks are seen coming from a mile away. How appropriate that the theme to this comical corpse has nothing really to say.
Sadly, respectable artists such as Allison Janney and the legendary Ruby Dee (playing Murphy’s Alzheimer’s-stricken mother with resentment issues) are inexplicably wasted in this reprehensible romp. Miscellaneous scenes such as an eager-pleasing bikini-clad Washington or a dark-suited Murphy sitting amongst white-robed zombie yoga enthusiasts are a few sensationalistic sight gags that come off as empty-minded and arbitrary. Whatever partial comeback Murphy made with the marginally successful Tower Heist undoubtedly will be erased by this unfortunate choice of Words.
Eddie Murphy may engage in foolish facial expressions and dimwitted hand signals in the infantile A Thousand Words but do not be shocked if this film inspires one specific non-word expressive gesture in mind…namely the middle finger!