February 11, 2007

Movie Review: Norbit

Eddie Murphy follows up his award winning success of Dreamgirls by getting back in a fat suit and playing multiple roles of The Nutty Professor and starring in the mean spirited unfunny comedy, Norbit. It is a film that has no story, no moral, and not much at all to like. It was almost a chore to sit through, thank goodness there were actually a few funny scenes to wake me up from time to time.

Norbit is the story of a nerdy, shy fellow named Norbit, a character reminiscent of Murphy's Jiff from the much better Bowfinger. He is an orphan who is brought up in an orphanage/Chinese restaurant run by Mr. Wong (Murphy). During his time there he develops a strong relationship with fellow orpan, Kate (played in adult form by Thandie Newton). The relationship is broken when Kate is adopted, leaving Norbit alone, until Rasputia arrives on the scene and awards him the status of boyfriend. Fast forward to adulthood, Norbit and Rasputia are married, and Kate arrives back on the scene.

Kate's return to town throws Norbit's life for a loop. On one hand he would like to reignite the relationship with his old flame, but on the other, he is scared to death of his supersized, controlling wife. Not to be left out, Kate has her own set of arm luggage, in the form of Cuba Gooding Jr., putting a crimp in any potential romantic entanglements. On top of the romantic angle, there is a subplot involving buying the orphanage and turning it into a strip club. Sounds like a winner doesn't it?

There is nothing extraordinary about the story, it is well telegraphed and nothing is given to chance. If you think the obvious will happen, you'd be right. The cliche and formulaic story is not the problem, as formulas can, and have, worked in the past and surely will again. The problem with Norbit is the comedy, it is not funny, and rather offensive. It is an endless stream of fat jokes, racial stereotypes, and lacks any type of social commentary that could have made the situation work. Rather than subvert the surface abrasiveness, it is all about the surface.

As I sat there, in the dark, watching this trainwreck, I couldn't help but notice just how repetitive the jokes were. It was an endless cycle of setups, Norbit does something, Rasputia reacts, wash, rinse, repeat. Every once in a while they would toss in some side characters, I guess to add a little flavor, but that didn't help.

Fortunately there are a couple of redeeming values, not so much as to save the movie. First off, Eddie Murphy is good in one of his roles, the titular character. He does a delightful job as the weak Norbit, it may just be riffing on Jiff, but there is a definite sweetness to the character. Secondly, there is the pimp duo of Eddie Griffin and Katt Williams. These guys provide a few laughs, and Griffin has some great comedic timing. Lastly, there is the special effects work of Rick Baker, who has worked on such films as Star Wars, An American Werewolf in London, and X-Men: The Last Stand. His work here is probably the best fat suit created, the fat effect here is really quite good, even if I don't particularly care to see it.

Bottomline. This is not a good movie, there is very little redeeming value to it. Though, judging by the reactions of those at my screening, I am in the minority. You would be best advised to avoid this.

Not Recommended.


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