Eddie Murphy, Clark Duke, Allison Janney, Ariel Winter, Kerry Washington, John Witherspoon
Have you ever left a film muttering to yourself "Man, I could write a better film than that piece of crap?"
A Thousand Words is that kind of film. It's the kind of film where you'll find yourself muttering insanely as you leave the theater, both wondering why you spent your money on such an awful film and wondering how Steve Koren managed to pick up a check for writing it.
Koren, if you need a reminder, is the same dude responsible for Sandler's Click and Sandler's even more awful Jack & Jill, a film so dreadfully misguided that you might prefer an afternoon of watching Joan Rivers have yet another facelift.
Out of fairness to Murphy, it should be noted that this Brian Robbins (think Norbit AND Meet Dave) directed vehicle was actually filmed back in 2008 and is just now seeing the light of day. Let's face it. We all know that Murphy went through a significant cinematic period where he said "Yes!" to just about every project imaginable, most of them perfectly dreadful even amidst the lower expectations afforded your standard Hollywood family fare.
So, we start off begging the question "How can both Steve Koren and Brian Robbins continue to find projects?" In a world where there are so many immensely talented directors in the indie world, how can Hollywood's studio brass continue to trust these producers of hack material with their millions of dollars?
Yes, I know some of these projects actually make money, but really?
Koren has been successful before, as in the Jim Carrey vehicle Bruce Almighty. One almost gets the sense that he's going for a similar vibe with this film, a film filled with New Age platitudes that will most assuredly not make anyone explore the New Age movement. Murphy stars here as Jack, a high-powered literary agent who decides to go after a New Age guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), whose book it is believed is destined to be a mega-hit. Unfortunately for Jack, as a high-powered agent apt to say anything to get what he wants, Dr. Sinja sees through his facade and essentially places Jack under a curse. A bodhi tree appears in his backyard with leaves representing each of Jack's words. When Jack has spoken, can you guess, a thousand words, he will die.
Remind me never to tick off Deepak Chopra.
The film that follows is basically an excuse for Murphy to mug for the camera and use his ample, but tiresome, physical comedy in an effort to avoid communicating his thousand words. He communicates better with his nerdy assistant (Clark Duke) than his beautiful wife (Kerry Washington) but, of course, by film's end he will have managed to have learned more effective communication skills and will have become more peaceful with who he is and how he lives his life.
Oh, and really, do you actually expect Murphy to die in a comedy where he's the star? If you consider the outcome even remotely suspenseful, then you may very well not be intelligent enough to get this film.
And that would be sad. Very sad.
Amidst the bad comedy and the histrionic treatment of unresolved mommy/daddy issues, there are moments when Murphy actually achieves a bit of cinematic serenity and you get a glimpse of the film that, perhaps, A Thousand Words could have been. There are moments, admittedly fleeting, when Murphy drops the over-the-top shtick and manages to actually underplay his character with results that are bordering on sublime and sweet. Unfortunately, these moments are far too rare to salvage a film that has been languishing in the DreamWorks cellar since 2008 and likely should have been left there.
A Thousand Words?
One word will do - Sucks.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic