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"A THOUSAND WORDS"
(2012) (Eddie Murphy, Kerry Washington) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A motor-mouthed literary agent is cursed by a magic tree to limit himself to 1,000 words the rest of his life, which throws his marriage and career into a tailspin.
PLOT:
Jack McCall (EDDIE MURPHY) is a high-strung, motor-mouthed literary agent who works for Samantha (ALLISON JANNEY) and becomes obsessed with signing the world's hottest self-help guru Dr. Sinja (CLIFF CURTIS) to a book deal. At his meditation facility, though, he scratches himself on the bark of a tree that then magically sprouts up in the backyard of his house. Leaves start falling off with each word Jack says, and Sinja deduces that Jack and the tree are psychically linked. When the tree loses all of its leaves, it and Jack die...unless Jack can find inner calm.

It's hard for Jack, because his father ran out on him and his mother at an early age and he's never come to terms with that. He rose through the publishing industry thanks to his own drive and iron will and subsequently married a beautiful woman named Caroline (KERRY WASHINGTON), who then gave birth to a son. But his career and his marriage are put at risk as his behavior gets increasingly bizarre with so few words and so little time left.

When it becomes clear that he needs to start making his words count and show the people around him how much he really cares, he starts to have some hope he can lift the curse. He even gets help from his put-upon assistant, Aaron (CLARK DUKE), who comes to understand late the troubles Jack is going through. But it might be too little, too late.

OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits.

Remember when Eddie Murphy used to be REALLY funny? Remember when his movies were event movies? Remember when other films and filmmakers would tremble at the mere prospect of opening opposite a "Beverly Hills Cop II?" A "Golden Child?" A "Coming to America?" Yeah, those days are long gone. And so should Murphy's latest effort, "A Thousand Words," a pathetic studio picture that tries to marry the high-concept easy sell of a Jim Carrey-like "Liar, Liar" vehicle with the third-act schmaltz of Adam Sandler's very worst efforts. It's never a good thing for a comedy when you sit there in the theater actively feeling bad for the people on screen.

Murphy stars as Jack McCall, a cocky, motor-mouthed literary agent who courts a world-famous spiritual guru (Cliff Curtis) shopping around a self-help book. Jack accidentally scratches himself on a magic tree on the guru's property, and it ends up taking root back at Jack's house and forming a sort of psychic link with him. The tree has a thousand leaves. And for every word Jack speaks from now on, a leaf falls. When all the leaves have fallen, Jack dies, forcing him to say more with less and re-connect with the "really important things in life." Forced hijinks and a LOT of camera mugging on the part of Murphy follows.

This is the kind of movie that can only continue past the 30-minute mark or so if everyone in the cast behaves in a deeply moronic fashion. Case in point, Jack has at least 800 words left early on. Rather than tell his wife (Kerry Washington), his assistant (Clark Duke), his boss (Allison Janney), and others in a succinct way his dilemma (say, into a tape recorder so he doesn't have to repeat himself), he spends a good hour of screen time playing an increasingly hyper game of charades with these people, each of whom misconstrues his every movement to mean something else. The bit gets tedious almost immediately. So does this movie. I rate it a 2.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed March 9, 2012 / Posted March 9, 2012


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