It would be different if Eddie Murphy had never been funny. But as it stands, seeing him spiral so far down from the golden comedic god he once was into the depths of Pluto Nash despair makes sitting through his movies that much more painful. We're not just losing money and time enduring this junk--we're mourning the loss of what once was. To make matters worse, we keep seeing glimmers of his greatness in roles like Dreamgirls and even Tower Heist that build us up just to tear us down again.
A Thousand Words is a movie only fit for consumption by any one of the seven people who saw Meet Dave and spent two months smugly satisfied that Norbit received an Academy Award nomination, as well as those who saw the deplorable Jack and Jill and thought, "this screenwriter deserves more work and piles of money to roll around in." With no surprises, very little charm, and subtlety of a train wreck, it is probably one of the worst films of the year so far. And it breaks my heart to say that.
We all want Eddie Murphy to recapture his magic, right? He's not going to do it being in films about horrible, soullessly stereotypical Hollywood agents whose life force gets inexplicably linked to a Bodhi tree. As the glib words fall from Jack's mouth, so do the leaves of the tree. The mystical Deepak Chopra-type guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) claims that once all the leaves fall off the tree Jack will die, but that just proves that no one in Los Angeles understands the concept of "autumn." So the one-joke movie commences, where everyone wants Jack to speak but he refuses, or else he can't continue wearing shiny suits or torturing his assistant (Clark Duke) anymore.
There are plenty of simple comedies like this that require the larger-than-life star to carry it solely on their own shoulders. Take Liar Liar, for instance. The difference is, that movie was directed by Tom Shadyac, whose synergy with mid-'90s juggernaut Jim Carrey created countless memorable moments (in both that film and Ace Ventura Pet Detective). It also played to Carrey's strengths, which included giving his body parts funny voices and yelling at Carey Elwes. Although Eddie Murphy gives good face, we pay to hear him talk, not take a slapstick vow of silence.
Not even the presence of legendary Ruby Dee as Jack's mother or Allison Janney as a fellow agent can drag this movie across the finish line. The only thing I found enjoyable about the film was imagining someone forcing Eddie Murphy to read the Gettysburg Address to put his character out of his misery, and let us all go back to our memories of what he once was.