A Thousand Words Review
At least eight of them have to be synonyms for “confused”.
I had mixed feelings in anticipation of seeing this film. On the one hand, the trailers made it look like a mediocre rip off of Liar Liar. A fast talking guy who is good at making faces is somehow magically compelled to curtail his speaking behavior. But then I remembered enjoying Eddie in Tower Heist and thinking at the time maybe he had evolved past doing kiddie movies and was back to doing films adults could enjoy.
Unfortunately my first instinct was more correct. I say more, because it wasn’t 100%. Instead of being a rip off on one movie this film is an unhealthy mix of Liar Liar, Groundhog Day, and Jerry Macguire all stuffed into a giant blender, set on puree, and then left in the sun for a couple days. It starts off with a very old school Eddie Murphy slapstick comedy with Eddie playing Jack McCall, smooth and successful literary agent with a gift for gab. Then it shifts over to a mystical lesson being taught by the universe to curtail his bad ways, with a thick frosting of a cheesy spiritual journey to address his daddy issues. You start off kind of laughing and expecting the story to be the Clumps, but by the end of the film you are watching a serious drama with Eddie dealing with his impending death and his feelings for his long estranged and deceased father, his dementia afflicted mother, and his unhappy wife and child. I swear it felt like someone knocked me unconscious and dragged me into a different theater halfway through the screening.
Anyway, the story. Eddie Murphy plays Jack McCall, hotshot literary agent who uses his quick wit and fast tongue to get anything he selfishly desires. His wife (Kerry Washington-the Fantastic Four, Ray, the Last King of Scotland) is unhappy as he refuses to consider moving to a more family friendly house for their infant son. He is given the assignment by his boss (Allison Janney-the West Wing, Juno, Finding Nemo) to secure the rights to a book written by an extremely popular new age guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis-Training Day, Live Free or Die Hard, Three Kings), who’s whole philosophy (which is never actually explained in any detail) seems to have something to with finding the truth in the silence, or whatever. While signing Dr. Sinja Jack is cursed with a magical tree that pops up in his back yard. Every time he says a word a leaf falls from the tree. Dr. Sinja theorizes that when the tree is out of leaves Jack will die. He agrees to consult with other new age experts on what to do.
At that point some goofy slapstick comedy begins, although to be honest I preferred the smooth talking Eddie Murphy comedy from the first 20 minutes. Jack enlists his long abused assistant Aaron Wiseberger (Clark Duke-Hot Tube Time Machine, Kick Ass, Greek. Chernobly (the drink from Hot Tub Time Machine) image courtesy of the Movie T Shirt category) to be be the most awkward comic relief sidekick ever (I’m sorry, but this kid is only funny in a nerdy deadpan way. Watching him do schtick felt as natural as watching all the white guys do black jive in Bringing Down the House. Also, it should be considered a comedy warning sign when the writers feel the need to give an actor known for his great comedy a comic relief sidekick). Jack and Aaron bumble and ruin a couple of huge business deals and Jack gets fired. His wife attempts to seduce him but feels since he isn’t talking they cannot communicate and leaves, taking his child with her.
At this point we get into the unnecessary and really unasked for meat of the story, the spiritual journey where Jack learns to choose only words that have real meaning. He runs around making amends to all the people he had abused up until then (specifically the guy at Starbucks (Jack McBrayer-30 Rock, Forgetting Sarah Marshal, Despicable Me) and his building parking attendant). More emotional scenes come in and the whole story gets wrapped up with a bow made entirely of cheddar.
The stars. I do like Eddie Murphy, and he was good in the comedy scenes (if a little dated). One star. While it was a fairly mediocre movie, it weirdly didn’t feel like a mediocre movie. You could almost spot the bone structure of a decent movie under all the flab if crumminess. One star. I don’t want to bury this film in black holes because in spite of everything it was not unwatchable, so I will give it another star for exceeding my (fairly low) expectations. One star. Total: three stars.
The black holes. Extremely derivative. One black hole. Trying to mix three different movies that have no business being on the same screen together. It’s like if instead of mixing chocolate and peanut butter you mixed chocolate and lead paint chips. One black hole. I felt a lot of frustration at Jack McCall’s inability to use simple solutions to fix a couple of his bigger problems. Had he actually explained to his wife early on with a minimum of words the situation it would have saved him a lot of pain. One black hole. The fact is the story never actually make sense, and no attempt is ever made to explain it. One black hole. Attempting to turn a lifetime straight man like Clark Duke into some kind of comedian. One black hole. Eddie Murphy is at his funniest when he is actually talking, so to put a gag on him is a crime against comedy. Furthermore, there were a couple “comedic” scenes I would like to have scrubbed from my cerebral cortex. One black hole. If each individual movie used to create this Frankenstein were studied they would all have major issues. The comedy just wasn’t that funny, the life lesson learned felt forced, and the spiritual journey felt really cheesy and trite. One black hole. Total: eight black holes.
So a grand total of five black holes. Not very good, but not bad enough to prevent you from watching it on a bored Tuesday night at home. Worth paying money to see? Not really, although I didn’t walk away feeling like I had wasted money seeing it. It’s relative inoffensiveness makes it a good film to take your mother to see, but other than that just wait for video. Date movie? I suppose, although really if you want a date movie go see the Vow.
Thanks for reading. I might see Silent House tomorrow if I get the chance. Looks creepy. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu, or feel free to post comments here. If you want to send a suggestion, as a question, or invite me to any upcoming movie screening (I’m still have to see these films after they come out. Come on, Hollywood. Hook me up. I promise any film that invites me to an advanced screening (I’m in the Bay Area) will probably put me in a more receptive mood towards the film. I’m not saying I won’t dump on it if it sucks. I’m just saying I will feel much more guilty for having done so and probably apologize during the review) feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you all soon.