* (out of 5)
February 9, 2007
Eddie Murphy as NORBIT
Eddie Murphy as RASPUTIA
Eddie Murphy as MR. WONG
Thandie Newton as KATE
Terry Crews as BIG JACK
Cuba Gooding Jr. as DEION HUGHES
Eddie Griffin as POPE SWEET JESUS
Directed by: Brian Robbins
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“We even pooped together.”
Thus begins the quintessential romance between Norbit (Eddie Murphy) and Kate (Thandie Newton). And it all goes downhill from there.
Yes, I know it’s a crass line, but it so exemplifies the film “Norbit,” showing the characters as young children holding hands on side-by-side toilets in a Chinese orphanage/restaurant. There’s no romance and mystery that surrounded Kevin Nealon and Victoria Jackson on the Love Toilet in the classic SNL sketch. Nope. Just Eddie Murphy exclaiming joyfully in a lispy voice over: “We even pooped together.”
This scene is so indicative of the movie that I can’t help but come back to it. It was a funny enough concept, but horribly executed. Such is the film’s script and overall direction.
The story is a Jerry Springer episode in the making. A young wimp named Norbit (Murphy) is taken under the wing of a gargantuan woman named Rasputia (Murphy again). Reluctantly, he marries her, but he is devastated when she has an affair with her aerobics instructor. For the first time in his life, Norbit takes control.
Just at this time, his old flame Kate comes back into town. (You remember her… the little girl he pooped together with at the Chinese orphanage/restaurant?) Thandie Newton plays Kate, as thin as she was in “The Pursuit of Happyness,” but with a little more make-up and shot in soft focus to hide her wrinkles. Kate is looking to buy the orphanage with her fiancé Deion (Cuba Gooding Jr.), but Rasputia’s thug brothers are scheming to buy the restaurant and turn it into a gentleman’s club called Nippelopolis.
I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I was looking forward to “Norbit.” The trailers looked funny. Sure, I’m a bit tired of seeing Murphy play multiple roles in different levels of make-up. (According to Wikipedia, this is the sixth film featuring Murphy in multiple roles.) However, it looked funny.
Yet, the funniest thing surrounding “Norbit” is the fact that it is being released right in the midst of Eddie Murphy’s serious acting hype surrounding his role as James Early in “Dreamgirls.” I have yet to see the movie advertised as “starring Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Eddie Murphy,” but I wouldn’t put it past the industry.
In any case, Murphy seems to be taking proactive steps to grab hold of that Oscar curse that has plagued co-star Gooding… before he even wins one. At least Gooding waiting until after the Academy Award was in hand to do sludge projects like “Snow Dogs,” “Boat Trip” and “Radio.” I have to hand it to Eddie Murphy: at the very least, he has guts.
The script is woefully unfunny. I’ll admit there were a few times that I laughed, but too many times I watched with clenched teeth. I swear, I don’t look away from horror movies nearly as much as I did this film.
Much of the humor is pseudo raunchy, just to have some shock value. I understand the film was chopped up like coleslaw in order to score a PG-13 rating, so perhaps the director’s special unrated cut (due out on DVD in a few short months, I’m sure) might be funnier. But I wouldn’t hold your breath for this.
Ultimately, the jokes are often half-baked, reminding me of what it is like to watch a live taping of a situation comedy in which they work out the jokes on stage to see what gets the biggest laugh. However, there’s no second tries here. The jokes just end up falling flat.
Possibly the most pooly-done politically incorrect movie to be released – and during Black History Month, no less – “Norbit” has something to offend everyone. It’s got fat women jokes, fart humor, mind-numbing racial stereotypes and Eddie Murphy in the Asian version of blackface playing his own adoptive Chinese father. All you need is Isaiah Washington and Michael Richards in the movie spewing homophobic and racial slurs to make it complete.