A THOUSAND WORDS
* (out of 5)
March 9, 2012
Eddie Murphy as JACK MCCALL
Kerry Washington as CAROLINE MCCALL
Clark Duke as AARON WISEBERGER
Cliff Curtis as DR. SINJA
Allison Janney as SAMANTHA DAVIS
Directed by: Brian Robbins
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There was a time when I thought Eddie Murphy was the funniest man in America. Part of this was because I went to high school in the 1980s, and that’s when he was at his prime. Movies like “48 Hours,” “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop” were some of the funniest films of that decade. Even as he wore into the 90s, he had some decent movies.
But the 2000s killed his career. It wasn’t just doing kiddie movies like “The Haunted Mansion” and “Daddy Day Care.” It was doing just plain stupid movies in the latter half of that decade that destroyed him for me. He even was nominated for a freaking Oscar during this time, and the work he did after that was painful to watch. I’m talking about movies like “Norbit,” “Meet Dave” and “Imagine That.”
That’s why he was such a welcome addition to “Tower Heist” last November. While that film was far from perfect, it was a throwback performance to his heyday in the 80s. Of course, following “Tower Heist” up with the steaming pile of manure that is “A Thousand Words” was a bad move.
To be fair, this film was shot in 2008, when he was getting ready to release “Meet Dave,” so maybe this represents a previous life plan for Murphy. Still, there’s no excuse for this movie, which was a failure from the script stage.
The story follows Jack McCall (Murphy), a fast-talking literary agent who is great at selling but never reads his clients books. After trying to land a new client, who happens to be a respected guru (Cliff Curtis), Jack finds a magical tree in his back yard. From this point forward, whenever he speaks a word, a leaf falls off the tree. The guru warns him that when all the leaves fall off the tree, both he and it will die. Jack must use the least amount of words to keep his business life afloat and reconcile his rocky marriage.
I have not seen a theatrical release with this shoddy of a script in a long time. There are massive leaps in logic and character consistencies throughout. Knowing the grave danger he’s in, Jack never takes time to actually address it to his family. Oddly enough, he finds a way to confide in his personal assistant (Clark Duke) but never manages to show this to his wife (Kerry Washington).
The only focus in this film is actually on the film itself. The focus in the story and characters is haphazard and silly. The plot jumps around from his problematic marriage to scenes of attempted (and epically failed) slapstick, reminding us that Murphy has never been known for his physical comedy.
We’re supposed to care about his relationship with his wife, but he was clearly an asshole for their entire marriage up to this point, so why bother? The script also crams in an awkward story about his senile mother and his dead father, whom he’s never forgiven for leaving them (and by leaving, it means he died… more proof that Jack is an asshole with no soul).
With the movie shot in 2008, you’ll find weird pop culture references throughout that don’t quite work four years later. From the guru subplot, which is reminiscent of movies like “The Love Guru” and “Anger Management,” to a horridly out-of-place reference to Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana being the biggest concert ticket sellers in the world, this movie has become out of date before it began.
The rest of the film feels forced and wrong. Clark Duke has some funny lines, especially when he’s trying to emulate Murphy’s character, but ultimately he serves little purpose to the overall film. And I’d pay good money to someone who can explain to me what kind of accent Cliff Curtis is using in the film… because it ain’t an Indian one (though I suspect that’s what he’s going for).
It’s not that I hated this movie with the vitriolic rage that accompanied my review of “Project X.” Rather, “A Thousand Words” is a forgettable, boring, incoherent and pathetic mess. It’s clear why this movie was lost in the Hollywood shuffle for four years.
In fact, the last time an Eddie Murphy film was shelved for several years before release, the world got “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.” Don’t expect anything more from this one.