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updated: 3/8/2012 12:28 PM

'Words' wasted in infantile comedy

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  • Jack (Eddie Murphy) tries not to waste his words in the comedy "A Thousand Words."

      Jack (Eddie Murphy) tries not to waste his words in the comedy "A Thousand Words."

  • Video: "A Thousand Words" trailer

 
 

"A Thousand Words"?

I can review this ridiculously bad Eddie Murphy comedy in 500 words.

Wait! Make that 350!

Murphy plays an over-emoting caricature named Jack McCall, a wealthy, self-absorbed literary agent who makes decisions on what to publish based only on reading the first and last five pages of a manuscript.

(Coincidentally, I figured out that I could write this review by watching only the first five and last five minutes of the movie, but had to sit through the in-between parts.)

Jack is dismissive of others, even his wife, Caroline (Kerry Washington), and their baby son, and especially Aaron, Jack's doofus assistant (Clark Duke).

One day while courting a potential client in a popular New Age guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Collins), Jack pricks his hand on a magical tree.

Later, the tree inexplicably pops up in the backyard of his expensive house.

(Typical of the movie's dumbness, Jack thinks the gardener planted the tree, even though he'd just looked at the backyard five minutes earlier when it was treeless.)

Jack quickly catches on to the story's absurd premise: for each word he uses, a leaf falls from the tree.

When all the leaves fall, Jack dies.

(If only Jack had read a disclaimer from one of those car lease radio commercials. It would have been over quick.)

"A Thousand Words" seems ripe for a comic, yet heartfelt fantasy based on redemption and forgiveness.

But director Brian Robbins (who gave us "Norbit" and "The Shaggy Dog") constantly leaps between broad sitcom humor and deadly serious drama.

Jack desperately tries to connect with his mother (Ruby Dee), who is suffering from Alzheimer's and thinks her son is Raymond, the husband who abandoned her. Can angry Jack ever forgive his bad dad?

When this movie even remotely approaches a spiritual moment of redemption (think "Groundhog Day" or "It's a Wonderful Life"), Robbins and a shapeshifting script instantly revert to infantile dumbness.

"The answer is," Dr. Sinja tells Jack at one point, "there is no answer!"

Well, this comes to 350 words. Most of them wasted on a movie like this.

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