Review by Jack Foley
EVERY time Eddie Murphy resorts to latex and assumes multiple characters in a film, the law of diminishing returns applies.
What started out as funny in Coming To America got stale by the time the The Nutty Professor 2 arrived. Norbit, his latest, is simply a desperate attempt to find laughs that’s as hideous as one of its central characters.
The main problem with Brian Robbins’ film is that it consistently scrapes the bottom of the barrel in search of laughs, emerging as offensive rather than inspired.
The film follows the fortunes of Norbit (Murphy), a shy but kind-hearted soul who has never had it easy. As a baby, he was abandoned on the steps of a Chinese restaurant/orphanage and raised by Mr Wong (Murphy).
But things get worse when he’s forced to marry the mean, junk food-loving Rasputia (Murphy again), a horrifically over-weight woman with three equally thuggish brothers.
When his childhood sweetheart Kate (Thandie Newton) moves back to town, however, Norbit is offered an unlikely shot at happiness, so long as he can avoid the wrath of his wife and persuade Kate not to marry her gold-digging fiance (played by Cuba Gooding Jnr).
From its uninspired plot through to its tired performances, there’s nothing to recommend Norbit at all. The quality of its laughs is established from the beginning, when a baby is thrown from a car, and just keeps getting worse.
Most jokes come at the expense of obesity and there are the obligatory sex scenes and water park pranks involving Rasputia in swimsuits.
But the longer it lasts, the more strained it becomes. Characters are so one-dimensional that they quickly become devoid of interest, while a lot of what they say is borderline racist. Almost everyone conforms to a stereotype in some way.
Murphy, himself, invests each of his three characters with as much energy as he can muster but is constantly thwarted by a lame, repetitive script and Newton simply feels like she’s acting in a different movie and looks ill at ease with some of the material.
What makes the whole experience even more disappointing is that Murphy is capable of so much better, as his recent Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls proves. It’s depressing to find someone of his quality slumming it in lazy, retarded material such as this. Avoid at all costs.
Running time: 100mins