Special to South Florida Times
In A Thousand Words, Jack McCall, played by Eddie Murphy, is attached to a tree that loses a leaf for each word he says or writes. Since Jack is an overly articulate literary agent, this is a major issue for him, especially when one factors in that once the last leaf falls from the tree, Jack will die.
For some side drama, Jack has cut himself off emotionally from his wife Caroline (Kerry Washington), his son Tyler (Emanuel Ragsdale) and his mother Annie (Ruby Dee).
People who have not seen A Thousand Words (it was #6 at the box office last week, so that’s a lot of people) may appreciate knowing it’s basically Murphy’s 2009 film Imagine That without the “goo gaa.”
Murphy is continuing his apology tour, trying to prove that he can be a good dad despite holding a press conference to say that Melanie Brown (Scary Spice) is a “slut” and their daughter Angel wasn’t his (which DNA cleared up quickly). Such bad judgment can ruin an actor’s career (see: Tom Cruise couch jumping, denouncing postpartum depression and speaking against taking medication for mental illnesses).
Dear Mr. Murphy: If audiences accept your apology, will you stop making these stupid films?
The preposterous premise of A Thousand Words is that every man who is married to his job can change and become a family man, in three days, because of a tree.
To make the concept a little more inviting, screenwriter Steve Koren throws in a spiritual guru, Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) so that Jack can be guided spiritually.
Unfortunately, Koren renders Dr. Sinja impotent when it comes to being knowledgeable about the situation; after all, it is Dr. Sinja’s tree that attaches itself to Jack.
Director Brian Robbins previously oversaw the awesomely bad Eddie Murphy films Meet Dave and Norbit, as well as The Shaggy Dog, Varsity Blues, and Good Burger. He does A Thousand no favors by adding cheap laughs for sexuality and drug use in a family film. What was he thinking? If Robbins really wanted to make this an enjoyable film for adults, he should have ditched the stupid tree and given Dr. Sinja a brain.
Murphy is funny. He was funny last year in Tower Heist. It is becoming more and more apparent, however, that Murphy should skip the family films. He got his start as a raunchy comic in action films. We like our Murphy funny with a side of raunch. This Murphy who’s a jerk with a family? Not so funny, neither in reality nor onscreen.
Speaking of funny, the veteran actor/comedian actually is outshined by a newbie, Clark Duke, who hilariously plays Aaron Wiseberger, Jack’s assistant. Duke and his BFF Michael Cera are the brains behind the popular online series Clark and Michael. Duke steals the scene when he’s imitating Murphy.
Ruby Dee gives a stellar performance as Jack’s mother. She can still command an audience’s attention, even as a woman stricken with dementia. Washington as Jack’s wife is another story. Koren must think all wives are annoying, yappy and don’t listen. That’s the only way to justify Robbins having such an annoying character on the screen. She’s more annoying than Jack and his word tree.
If Murphy is going to show the audience that he can be a good dad, he needs to take a cue from people who have rehabbed their image via the movie screen.
Tom Cruise won audiences over by being an agent in a fat suit who’s good at hip-hop dancing. Who knew?
Even Tyler Perry, who has been accused (ahem — Spike Lee) of putting out nincompoopery, is redeeming himself: His latest film, Good Deeds, is so much better than his Madea series.
What Cruise and Perry have done to re-achieve audience approval is simple: Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just be you, and be honest with us and yourself.
Family friendly fare apparently is not for Murphy. He works best in action comedy. I’m not one for sequels, but I’d rather see Tower Heist 2 than another Dad Learns to Love His Family flick.
Photo: Courtesy OF Bruce McBroom
OMG: Eddie Murphy plays Jack McCall and Cliff Curtis plays Dr. Sinja in A Thousand Words.