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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.21%
Worth A Look: 3.77%
Just Average: 15.09%
Pretty Crappy: 3.77%

4 reviews, 29 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Now That Was A Short-Lived Comeback!"
1 stars

Even though the trailers that have been running for the last few months haven’t exactly been promising a bonanza of wit and invention, even those familiar with the depths that Eddie Murphy’s career has plummeted to in recent years (thanks to such winners as “Metro,” “Holy Man” and “The Adventures of Pluto Nash”) may be taken aback by the absolute cruddiness of “Norbit.” It is so bad, in fact, that there is a part of me that almost makes me want to suggest that you see and not just because I am working on the theory that if I had to sit through it, so should you. No, my theory is that if enough people go to see it, the word “Norbit” may well become shorthand for something so appalling horrible and yet so difficult to explain in ways that a rational person could understand in a quick and time-saving manner. Suppose you go on an absolutely hideous date–the kind that starts with you spilling wine on your date’s dress and ends with you inadvertently killing her grandmother and eating her roasted flesh–and your friends innocently ask you the next day how it went? Instead of trying to explain the story in a way that properly conveys the sheer agony and horror to them, you can simply say “Norbit,” and your friends will instantly understand and move on to another topic. Alas, despite the hours of manpower that would probably be saved as a result, such a suggestion would probably leave me open to a class-action suit regarding my gross dereliction of duty in not persuading you away from what is probably the worst major American studio film to come along since “Bad Boys 2.”

Like many of Murphy’s recent films, “Norbit” finds him playing multiple roles, often playing several characters in the same scene, while buried under tons of make-up. This time around, he plays three different people. For starters, he is Norbit, a meek nebbish of a man who has been on the short end of the stick of life ever since his parents dumped him at an orphanage as an infant. (Actually, they toss the baby out of a moving car into a parking lot that is soon invaded by a pair of coyotes in an opening sequence that unfortunately provides an accurate taste of things to come.) Then he is Mr. Wong, the elderly Chinese man who runs the orphanage, which also doubles as a Chinese restaurant, while spending most of his spare time practicing his harpoon-throwing while taking care to pronounce all of his l’s as r’s in a bit of stereotyping that makes the Mickey Rooney character from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” look like a positive role model by comparison. Finally, he plays Norbit’s wife, Rasputia, a woman who can only be described as an amalgam of the most objectionable characteristics of Grendel’s mother and Aunt Esther from “Sanford & Son” packed into a crude, obnoxious, self-absorbed, slutty and sadistic monster who has been physically and emotionally abusing our hero ever since they met on a playground as kids. Even though Murphy’s filmography isn’t exactly overflowing with positive female role models–they tend to either be slutty sexbombs or hideous harridans–this is a character with such spite for the entire gender that it almost takes your breath away. If Murphy just stood in front of the camera for two hours and repeatedly said “Bitches!,” it couldn’t be more off-putting than the Rasputia character. I know because I’ve seen “Norbit” and the entire film essentially consists of Murphy standing in front of a camera and essentially saying “Bitches!” for two hours and yet Rasputia still takes the rancid cake.

What passes for a plot kicks in when Kate (Thandie Newton), Norbit’s childhood sweetheart at the orphanage until she was adopted, returns to town with plans to take over the orphanage from Mr Wong. For Norbit, who has just caught Rasputia in the arms of another man (for lack of a better term), Kate is a dream come true and holds out the promise of a new and better life. Alas, his hopes are dashed when it turns out that she is equipped with a fiancee, Deion (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who is so seemingly perfect and attentive that it becomes immediately evident to everyone (with the inevitable exception of Kate) that he is a despicable rotter who is planning to double-cross her at the first available opportunity. It turns out that Rasputia’s thuggish brothers, who have terrorized the entire town with their intimidating tactics, want to buy the orphanage and transform it into a strip club and they make a deal with Deion in which he will marry Kate, they will get divorced and he will claim the property for himself and turn it over to the problems. Meanwhile, Norbit struggles to tell Kate how he really feels about her while trying to avoid the wrath of Rasputia, who puts him in the hospital with a concussion at one point and later locks him in the basement as punishment. It all ends as most bankrupt comedies do–with a disrupted wedding, shocking revelations, confessions of true love among the nice people, public humiliations for the nasty people and the appearance of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” on the soundtrack, perhaps in sly reference to the condition of the Dreamworks executives that looked at this premise and screenplay and decided that it was worth funding.

Of course, the plot of “Norbit” is just an excuse for Murphy to portray a bunch of different roles as he did in such crowd-pleasers as “Coming to America” and “The Nutty Professor.” However, what Murphy seems to have forgotten (or possibly never quite understood in the first place) is that what made those films successful wasn’t simply the fact that he was one man playing several different characters–it was that he was playing several different characters that were written to be funny, interesting and sympathetic enough so that they could have still been interesting even if they had been played by several different actors. Here, the three characters that Murphy is playing are simply not funny, interesting or sympathetic. Norbit is such a pathetic little whipping boy for virtually everyone he encounters that many of you in the audience will find yourselves wanting to slap some sense into him yourselves. Mr Wong is the kind of walking cliche that would seem more at home in a Michael Richards comedy monologue than in a contemporary motion picture. As for Rasputia, words fail to describe just how much of a comedy killer she is. It isn’t so much that the character isn’t funny (though it isn’t) as much as it is impossible to understand how anyone could have thought that a character like hers (who at one point goes out of her way to run over a cute little dog with her car for no particular reason other than to show how mean she is) could have possibly struck anyone as funny in the first place. (Even the sight of Murphy dragged up and blimped out is more of an eyesore than a bellylaugh thanks to one of Rick Baker’s least-inspired makeup designs.)

And since “Norbit” has essentially been conceived as a one-man show, the other actors who have been roped in have precious little of anything worthwhile to do here. You know you are in trouble when you walk into a comedy and discover that Eddie Griffin, the generally cringe-worthy star of “Double Trouble,” the “Deuce Bigalow” series and those annoying “Man Law” beer commercials, is one of the actors. You know you are in real trouble when it turns out that his brief appearance as a wacky advice-giving pimp is the funniest thing in the film. As the girl that we know has to be nice–after all, she is skinny and pretty–Thandie Newton has little to do but stand around while Murphy capers about with a frozen smile on her face that indicates the poignancy of a woman who was working with Jonathan Demme and Bernardo Bertolucci a few years ago and who is now acting opposite several pounds of latex. At this point, I think I am supposed to note the presence of Cuba Gooding Jr, whose recent track record is as bad as Murphy’s, by saying that Hollywood should rescind the Oscar they gave him for “Jerry Maguire” as payback for such tedious post-award choices as “Boat Trip” and “Radio” but that would be too easy. This is a film so bad that I suspect that the producers of “Boat Trip” are going to try to rescind Gooding’s credit so as not to sully the reputation of that film by comparison.

Although virtually all of “Norbit” is inexplicable–we are supposed to believe that Rasptuia’s brothers have the entire town in their terrified grip but the place looks and feels like Main Street U.S.A. at all times (aside from the friendly neighborhood pimps, of course)–the basic fundamental question I had throughout was about who the target audience for the film was supposed to be in the first place. In recent years, Murphy has gained a new fan base amongst kids, thanks to films like “Dr. Dolittle” and “Daddy Day Care” and the sight of him in the makeup may make it seem like a youth-oriented film but the humor is far too coarse and smutty for them. At the same time, the jokes are far too juvenile to appeal to older viewers who still fondly recall the days of “48 HRS” and “Trading Places.” Women, of course, will be rightly horrified by the film since its attitudes towards women makes “Harlem Night” seem warm and cuddly by comparison. As for the rest of us, it is hard to imagine that there are too many people out there willing to sit through a film in which the funniest line of dialogue involves a character saying that something “reminds me of a Chinese snuff film I once co-starred in” and ends with jokes involving a lynch mop and a black man in Asian makeup saving the day by throwing a spear at someone. At one point, in fact, things get so desperate that the film actually steals a joke from none other than last year’s “Date Movie”–not only that, the joke was funnier in “Date Movie.”

Looking over the nearly 2000 words that I have committed to paper in an effort to warn you off of “Norbit,” I realize that it would have been just as easy to simply dismiss it as sexist, racist, misogynistic, and sizeist garbage and go on to talking about more intriguing subjects–the trailer for “Zodiac,” for example, or my instantaneous crush on the poppy-but-terrifying Lily Allen. However, while those words do describe the film fairly aptly, they hardly begin to suggest the utter contempt for the audience that permeates every single frame, especially towards those who have patiently endured the recent downward career spiral of Murphy in the hopes that he would one day repay their faith by regaining the comedic chops and sheer likability that made him an instant star in the first place. In less than two hours, Murphy manages to single-handedly eradicate whatever goodwill he might have banked from his genuinely impressive turn in “Dreamgirls” on a project that is so artistically and comedically bankrupt that I can confidently predict that there is only one person in the world who could possibly walk away from a screening of it with a smile on his face and his name is Alan Arkin.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15557&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/09/07 02:13:52
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User Comments

7/05/18 Amme some of it satirically funny 2 stars
11/04/15 David Hollingsworth Why? 1 stars
1/11/10 TravisN To quote Ebert: "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated hated this movie." 1 stars
9/25/08 Shaun Wallner This film is hilarious!! 5 stars
7/26/08 Jeff Wilder Where have you gone Eddie Murphy? A comedy nation turns its lonely eyes to you, 1 stars
2/12/08 Anthony Feor A recycled idea that flows much better than The Klumps and is funnier. 4 stars
10/26/07 tracey chambers crap! I fell alsleep half way through 1 stars
7/23/07 Jon Crass, unfunny, cliched GARBAGE 1 stars
7/14/07 Tracey Chambers awful. what a piece of crap 1 stars
7/09/07 Total Crap How did Eddie go from Dreamgirls to NORBIT! Eddie what the fuck man!? 1 stars
7/08/07 Abs Total rubbish. i was bracing for crap so I was prepared. 1 stars
6/15/07 William Goss Moronic at best. Only Griffin provides laughs, which should alone speak volumes. 1 stars
6/14/07 Wendell O. Maness Blacks will hate this movie, I loved it! Its funny and it shows fat people, eating food. 5 stars
6/08/07 Ron Not one of Murphys best movies, but had its moments 4 stars
6/01/07 Jiz I watched Battlefield Earth start to finish, but I walked out of Norbit. 1 stars
5/02/07 Star Hey congraduation to all the people who participated on this movie.It's great movie. 5 stars
4/05/07 Caroline Maness Great movie about blacks in todays culture 5 stars
4/02/07 brent gerald mejia sr. Murphy is an OVERACTING jerk 1 stars
3/07/07 Ole Man Bourbon Rasputia was really funny, as was Wong at times, but could have been better. 3 stars
3/05/07 Chris Horrible 1 stars
2/27/07 Beau i think this is a funny movie! whats all the huff and puff about i laughed heaps!!! 5 stars
2/19/07 Carolyn Maness Great ethinic movie, saw it in Kansas City Mo 5 stars
2/13/07 The chode Complete Garbage. 1 stars
2/12/07 Grigory The problem isn't that its "hateful" or "racist" or whatever, it's that it's just unfunny. 1 stars
2/11/07 Wendell Maness I thought it a true depiction of overweight people, their ethnic place, and the way they ar 5 stars
2/10/07 johnnyfog What's with black comics dressing as fat women? 2 stars
2/10/07 Shobert Yeah, 'cause LIFE was such a masterpiece. Murphy, just give it up! 1 stars
2/09/07 Sal I noticed Scott didn't like 'Life' that explains this poor review 3 stars
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  09-Feb-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 05-Jun-2007

  09-Mar-2007 (12A)
  DVD: 09-Jul-2007

  22-Feb-2007 (M)

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