Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

One thing I’ve learned in this relatively short, pointless, misguided life of mine is that humor is truly one of the most subjective things in the human psyche.  Take my wife… Please!!! Har har har!   You see, back in 1950 or whatever folks used to laugh at that.  But seriously though, me and my wife can sit down in front of TV and watch an episode of her favorite show, ‘Girlfriends’, and she will just guffaw at it all the way through.  I can’t honestly tell you what she’s laughing at.  But when a classic like ‘The Naked Gun’ comes on TNT or whatnot, and I watch it for the 18th time and Enrico Palazzo starts flubbing the National Anthem for the 18th time and I fall off  the couch for the 18th time my lovely wife just stares at me with look that yells ‘What’s so damn funny?’   Genetics must play a part in this too because while watching ‘The Naked Gun’ for the 12th time with my mom, again the both of us are falling over each other in teary eyed hysterics while Enrico Palazzo butchers the National Anthem, while my wife again looks on wondering what the hell she’s married into.

Eddie Murphy’s new gender changing comedy ‘Norbit’ certainly has its funny moments, but man are they few and far between.  I mention the subjective nature of humor mainly because the ‘Norbit’ screening I attended was a relatively packed house, and throughout this overly long comedy were long droughts of laughter free silence, except from this one lady sitting directly behind me who almost fell in my lap she was laughing so hard.  SHE thought it was funny from start finish, she and she alone.  She will tell her friends that it’s the funniest flick she’s ever seen, convince them to drop 8.50 to go and see it, and her friends will ultimately hate her for it.

In ‘Norbit’ Eddie Murphy plays three different characters and each character is unique and distinct.  He is Norbit, the ultra nerdy orphan raised by a crazed Chinese man Mr. Wong (Murphy).  Norbit grows up and marry’s the incredibly overweight, mean, evil and unsympathetic Raputia (Murphy).  Rasputia is fat.  That’s pretty much the running joke throughout the film, and if there’s a fat joke that wasn’t used in this movie, it would come as a surprise to me.  Rasputia is also abusive and unfaithful, on top of being fat and unattractive which is why I suppose Norbit stays with her.  Eventually, Norbit runs into his sweetie from the orphanage, Kate (Thandie Newton) who is engaged to be married the scheming Deion (Cuba Gooding Jr.).  Kate is going to buy the orphanage / Chinese restaurant from Mr. Wong and expand it so that it can accept more children, but Deion, in cahoots with Rasputia’s violent brothers Big Jack (Terry Crews), Nate (Clifton Powell) and Blue (The Mighty Rasta) are plotting to turn it into a strip club.  Will Norbit be able to stop Kate from marrying the scurrilous Deion and save the orphanage?  Whatever.

Once you get past the litany of fat gags, ‘Norbit’ does have a story to tell.  Unfortunately the story they are telling has been lifted from an old episode of ‘Three’s Company’.  There is nothing fresh or original about ‘Norbit’ and it places all of its eggs in the Eddie Murphy multiple character basket.  Even though Murphy does admirable work, and no one can, or at least should question his talent and ability, this ain’t no Nutty Professor.  The tone of ‘The Nutty Professor’ was sweet and endearing.  When something bad happened to Sherman Klump, you felt bad for the character and even though you might not weigh 450 pounds, you identified with the character.  I doubt seriously if anyone will be able to identify with weak spineless Norbit, and the tone of ‘Norbit’ was mean and extremely unsympathetic. 

The supporting characters aren’t a lot of help either.  Thandie Newton’s main talent seems to be being thin and beautiful, and though she does that quite well, girlfriend has almost no comic timing.  Cuba Gooding seems tacked on as an after thought, but the biggest waste of a cast member was the misuse of Clifton Powell.  Powell is the best actor out of the bunch, and he had all of one line in the whole movie.  I know Terry Crews is supposed to be the hot up and comer and as such he got all of the good lines for the Lattimore Brothers, but Clifton Powell he is not.  What a waste. 

‘Norbit’ had its funny moments, but not enough to fill 100 minutes of movie running time.  If they could have shaved twenty minutes of this thing, gave Rasputia a heart and given Clifton Powell something to do, it would have been way better.  Despite what that crazy woman sitting behind me might want to say.

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