By Admin | February 10, 2007

The life of a movie critic, especially one who writes on the accursed internet, is one of near-constant disillusionment and self-loathing. The realization inevitably sets in – sooner or later – that our words really have little to no effect on the habits of the moviegoing public. Films that are routinely panned (or worse, not even screened in advance) continue to top the weekly box office in spite of this fact, while those releases we go out of our way to recommend barely make their budgets back before getting yanked so “Over the Hedge” can expand to 3,300 screens.

You get used to it after a while, because…you have to. You learn to accept that your influence as a critic ranks somewhere below your local newspaper hack and somewhere above a 15-year old emo kid’s MySpace page as you watch “RV” gross $16 million its first week in spite of your scathing (or so you thought) one-star review. People will go see what they want, and there’s precious little you can do about it. You tell yourself this as you pour another double whiskey and wonder for the millionth time where your journalistic aspirations went awry.

Such was my state of mind as I sat down to watch “Norbit,” Eddie Murphy’s latest cinematic cry for help. Having seen the howlingly awful previews, my expectations were already ratcheted down to “dismal” before the lights even went down. As it turns out, it even failed to come close to that. Leaving the theater, I’m happy to say I was infused with a new sense of purpose: to do everything in my power to keep people from spending money on this pile of s**t.

The plot is diabolically complicated, but I’ll take a stab at it: nerdy orphan Norbit (Murphy) is separated from his childhood sweetheart and ends up marrying an alarmingly corpulent harpy (also Murphy). Childhood sweetheart (now played by Thandie Newton) re-enters life, but is unfortunately engaged to scumbag (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who wants to trick sweetheart into buying old orphanage and converting it into a strip club. Norbit must rekindle old flame while also thwarting scumbag fiancée’s plans.

In looking at what pushed me over the edge, I had to examine several possible causes. Was it that Murphy has returned once again to the long-arid well of jokes making fun of the morbidly obese? Maybe it was the fact that a movie billed as a comedy elicited not one smirk or chuckle, much less a genuine laugh? How about the realization that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was somehow duped into giving this guy an Oscar nomination, and for an impersonation he essentially honed to perfection 25 years ago?

Okay, that’s actually pretty funny.

In the end, I decided, it comes down to laziness. The laziness of writers Jay Scherick and David Ronn (previous collaborators on the almost-as-horrendous “National Security” and “I Spy”), of Eddie and Charlie Murphy (who came up with the “idea”), of director Brian “The Shaggy Dog” Robbins, and of the entire cast (especially Gooding, Jr., whose string of awful post-Oscar performances should pave the way for new bylaws allowing the Academy to revoke an award for future malfeasance). No fat joke is left unexplored (often more than once, and from other movies), nor is any excuse to have a character fart or subject us to excruciating slapstick antics that were antiquated around the time Oliver Hardy made “The Flying Deuces” with Stan Laurel.

Upon exiting the theater, my friend remarked, “That made ‘Date Movie’ look good.” I’m forced to agree, compared to “Norbit,” “Date Movie” is “Casablanca.” If I thought hijacking a plane carrying prints of the film and crashing it into Murphy’s house would put a stop to it, I’d go out and buy a box cutter right now.

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