Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Cuba Gooding Jr., Eddie Griffin
Director: Brian Robbins
There aren’t enough words in the English vocabulary to describe just how painful it is to sit through a movie like “Norbit.” On one hand, it’s certainly better than most of the other films in the newly christened Black Comedians in Drag sub-genre (like “Big Momma’s House” and “White Chicks”), but on the other, it’s utterly depressing to think of all the dough this is going to make at the box office. And for anyone who’s unsure as to how much that really is, let’s just say that the studio might as well start printing money with Eddie Murphy’s face on it. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t nearly as good as the audience reaction would suggest, and while Murphy supporters will no doubt come rushing back to theaters after witnessing his brilliant performance in last year’s “Dreamgirls,” it’s beginning to look like credibility is the last thing on the actor’s mind.
Murphy stars as the title character, an orphan who was abandoned on the steps of a Chinese restaurant as a baby and raised by its owner, Mr. Wong (also played by Murphy). Picked on throughout much of his childhood, Norbit eventually earns an ally in the big-boned Rasputia, a woman that he doesn’t really love, but ends up marrying nonetheless. Fast-forward several years later and Norbit is worse off than ever. His cow-of-a-wife (again, played by Murphy) is domineering, his three brother-in-laws (led by Terry Crews) are big bullies, and he works at a dead-end job for the family construction business. But when an old childhood sweetheart (Thandie Newton) suddenly moves back to town, the bumbling nerd is given another shot at happiness.
Apparently indifferent to the fact that his name will now be prefaced by the phrase “Academy Award-nominated…,” Murphy has quickly fallen back into the role of the has-been comedian who always goes for the cheap laugh. He’s become a one-trick pony as of late, and though he looks to be trying to rekindle the massive success of “The Nutty Professor” by once again donning the fat suit, it’s a trend that has already been brutally driven into the ground by the far less talented Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry. It’s not as if the character of Rasputia has been done a great disservice as a result of this, either. The whole black-guy-in-a-fat-suit shtick was over long before it began, and not only is it downright embarrassing, but a comedian of Murphy’s stature shouldn’t be found within a hundred feet of such an easy joke when he’s got so much more to offer.
Case in point: the character of Norbit is fantastic. Murphy effortlessly sinks into the role – not because he’s wearing funny glasses and a wig – but because he’s crafted such a unique character that the audience doesn’t mind watching him get terrorized for the length of the film. It’s too bad that director Brian Robbins spent more time showcasing Murphy’s cellulite-jiggling alter ego than the dweeby protagonist, because this could have been a much stronger comedy had Norbit actually been the main attraction. Instead, it’s the Rasputia Show from the minute she’s introduced, and whether she’s getting freaky with her sleazy aerobics instructor (a throwaway cameo by Marlon Wayans), strutting around in disgustingly spare outfits, or shouting out her idiotic catch phrase (“How YOU doin’?”) for the bazillionth time, you’ll likely find nothing funny about it.
Murphy may be having the time of his life under all this drag, but that doesn’t mean the audience is sharing the experience. “Norbit” is, for lack of a better term, a broad comedy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing when done correctly, but when relying on silly gimmicks like fat suits and racist Chinese immigrants, it’s poison. Here’s hoping that when Murphy and Robbins team up again next year ("Starship Dave," the unofficial sequel to “The Adventures of Pluto Nash") that it turns out better than this, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it will suck. Now, how YOU doing?
“Norbit” may be one of the worst films of 2007, but that hasn’t stopped Paramount from producing a worthy DVD. The 21-minute making-of feature headlines the single-disc effort with a behind-the-scenes look into Eddie Murphy’s tri-role performance, while “The Stunts of Norbit” and “Man of 1,000 Faces” more closely covers the stunts and make-up effects of the film. Also included are 8-minutes worth of deleted scenes, a Power Tap infomercial with Marlon Wayans, and a photo gallery.