Director: Brian Robbins
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Terry Crews, Clifton Powell, Lester "Rasta" Speight, Cuba Gooding Jr., Eddie Griffin, Katt Williams
MPAA Rating: (for crude and sexual humor, some nudity and language)
Running Time: 1:42
Release Date: 2/9/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
Now I know how Roger Ebert felt after he saw North. I don't hate Norbit, though. No, "hate" is too kind a word. I loathe, despise, abhorr this movie. The adjectives terrible, awful, atrocious and the nouns garbage, black hole, dead-zone are suitable but not quite effective enough to convey just how bad this thing is. I have not made a point of actively detesting a movie—and I saw Alone in the Dark—but I'll make an exception here. Norbit will not kill you, but it will inflict a kind of trauma equivalent to banging one's head against a brick wall. In fact, banging one's head against the wall of a movie theater while a blank screen sits in the foreground might be more entertaining than this movie. If you have the misfortune of being on a plane when this is the in-flight movie, you'd better hope one of your carry-on items is a parachute. If airlines dare to use the phrase "in-flight entertainment," they will face the wrath of class-action false advertising lawsuits. This is a movie to end friendships over. Norbit is so bad, it has redefined my concept of Hell.
If you don't believe me, this is how the movie starts. Our so-called hero Norbit (Eddie Murphy) narrates about being an orphan. He imagines that his parents thought long and hard about which orphanage to send their child to so he could have the best life possible. As the voice-over continues, a car is driving down the highway. It arrives at the Golden Wanton Restaurant and Orphanage. The car door opens, and a baby is thrown across the highway to the front of the building. Yes, you read that correctly: The movie opens with a baby being thrown across a highway. Morning arrives, and coyotes are lingering around the baby that has just been thrown across the highway. The owner of the restaurant/orphanage Mr. Wong (Murphy again—you can see where this is going) finds the baby that was thrown across the highway and takes it in. The baby that was thrown across the highway grows up and has a childhood romance with another orphan. When the girl leaves after being adopted, Norbit (the baby who was thrown across the highway) is heartbroken and clings to the first girl that shows interest in him. He ends up marrying that girl, named Rasputia (Murphy yet again).
Here's the primary joke of the movie: Rasputia is obese. She also has a name one letter removed from the "Mad Monk" Rasputin, which should tell you a little about her character. She's mean, controlling, and unfaithful to Norbit with her aerobics instructor (not Murphy, Marlon Wayans).. The entire movie then is an extended fat joke, and it's sad to see so much talent in the makeup department wasted on such a lame concept. Rasputia can't fit in her car; her breasts honk the horn. She goes down a water slide and is sent propelled through a wall. She jumps in a carnival moonwalk, and kids fly out of it. She also jumps on Norbit in a montage of their early marital bliss and breaks the bed. The movie is a firm believer in the comic law of threes. By that, I mean things are only funny when done three times. However, that law doesn't apply when a joke isn't funny the first time. It is also a firm believer in pointless scenes of Murphy talking to himself. There's a long, painful scene in which Rasputia tries to get Norbit to tell her that his old friend from the orphanage will be at the water park.
There's no joke there, because apparently the filmmakers thought Murphy would manage to gain some laughs with the banter. They were wrong. This is the low point in Eddie Murphy's career. If characters are the intellectual property of the actor who creates them, Murphy should be able sue himself for copyright infringement. These are just tiresomely generic variations on better caricatures Murphy has done before. Rasputia screeches (She even has a dreadful, maddening, and stolen catchphrase: "How you doin'?"). Norbit talks with a lisp and has a tight afro and glasses. Then there's Mr. Wong, who Norbit at one point calls a racist. Add "stereotype" to the end of that sentence, and you've got Mr. Wong. Murphy's derision for these characters permeates every scene, just as Thandie Newton, playing the grown up version of Norbit's childhood sweetheart, is visibly uncomfortable every time she's on screen. Cuba Gooding Jr.'s here, too, playing her scummy fiancé. Not only is the movie a series of flat, predictable gags, it also goes the route of a formulaic romantic comedy within the story of Rasputia's brothers trying to turn the orphanage into a strip club, just to spite us.
At one point, Gooding Jr.'s character yells "That's enough, enough, enough!" He is speaking for us all. Would you believe me if I told you he's actually trying to stop a musical number that has broken out in a church? Of course, you would believe me if I said you can see that sequence coming from miles away. And it's not over yet, because there's still a fight sequence, which once again, plays a joke three times that wasn't funny the first time. A dog talks to Norbit, too. Avoid Norbit as though your life depended on it.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.