Friday 24 August 2012


And so, Eddie Murphy's latest 'comedy' arrives straight to DVD, and with it, poor word of mouth and extremely low expectations. When a loudmouth finds out he only has 1000 words left to say before he dies, he starts to choose who he speaks to very carefully.

Directed by Brian Robbins (who gave us the previous Murphy vehicles Norbit and Meet Dave), A Thousand Words has sat on a shelf for three years whilst someone decided what to do with it. First it was going to cinemas, then to DVD, then to cinemas again and finally it's out on DVD. I say finally, but really the only people who were anticipating it were those who wanted to see how bad it was. I'll count myself among those people, and although A Thousand Words is far, far, far away from being any good, it doesn't quite deserve the poor treatment it's been given. I'd certainly rank it higher than Norbit and perhaps also Meet Dave, and they both made it into cinemas.

There's a common consensus that Eddie Murphy stopped being funny when he stopped being so foul mouthed and started aiming his films towards a family friendly market. That being said, anyone who's seen his incredibly small minded AIDS stand-up routine in Delirious knows there's been times when Eddie Murphy should just shut up completely.

Here, in the tradition of Liar, Liar's high concept 'failing family man meets cruel and unusual social torture' formula, Murphy stars as Jack McCall, a big shot literary agent out to sign up Dr. Sinja, a mystically vague guru who is becoming the toast of the west coast and has just written a new book. As Jack negotiates a deal without having read Sinja's book, up springs a magical tree with 1000 leaves on its branches; each one counting for a word Jack has left to say.

I wouldn't expect a big hollywood star to appear in a film that's so negatively self referential, but A Thousand Words might just be the ultimate statement of what's wrong with Eddie Murphy's career today; when he became over reliant on physical comedy in favour of his foul mouthed persona. I wouldn't dare claim that Murphy can't do physical comedy well (the moment in Trading Places where he reveals himself to not be a crippled 'Nam veteran is a classic), but when you take the chatterbox away he becomes a lot less appealing. Although Murphy's character starts the film as a live wire careersman who's only initial signs of having a soul are that he goes to visit his Alzheimer's suffering mother, once he actually starts to get sick from listening to the sound of his own voice and shuts up, all we're left with is a leading man without the use of his greatest comedic asset.

If I can offer a strange comparison, it's like in Drive, when Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan have scenes where they do little else but look at each other, because the subtext is clear and things don't need to be said; here, we have Eddie Murphy doing sad eyes towards his frustrated wife who doesn't understand what he's trying to say because without his voice, he's incapable of expressing anything close to a real emotion.

The film is able to raise one or two chuckles, mostly from Jack's assistant played by Clark Duke, but bogged down with the hokey mysticism of Cliff Curtis' guru and an unbelievably soppy final act as Jack starts to learn the real meaning of family; instead of leaving me wondering what I would do if I only had 1000 words left to say, it left me wondering how many schmaltzy crap family movies Eddie Murphy would try to make within that remit.


Special Features:
+ Deleted scenes

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