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Thursday, 24 May 2018

Retro Review: Norbit (2007)

Cast: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Cuba Gooding Jr, Eddie Griffin, Katt Williams, Marlon Wayans
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $159 million

Plot: A mild-mannered guy, who is married to a monstrous woman, meets the woman of his dreams, and schemes to be with her

'Nor-Freaking Way'

Is Norbit the guilty pleasure comedy farce much like with 1997's Fathers' Day for me and a comedy with Robin Williams and Billy Crystal that was trashed by critics but one I adored to bits, or is it an absolute travesty and a low for Eddie Murphy, whose film career has its share of downs and ups?

Penned by Eddie and his late brother, Charlie Murphy, Norbit took in almost $100 million and is the follow-up to Eddie Murphy's praised performance in Dreamgirls and is another film where just like with 1996's The Nutty Professor Eddie dons prosthetics. The only difference being the laughs here was not only woefully few and few between, but the humour also was just poor and most of it was distasteful. 

Geeky Norbit marries an obese woman - with Eddie Murphy playing triple roles as Norbit, Rasputia and Norbit's biological Asian father -, with Rasputia who later on treats Norbit like dirt and he tries to break up with her. Rasputia cheats on Norbit with a fitness instructor. He then meets an attractive woman and falls for her, but Rasputia is not taking it lying down and intends to get her revenge against Norbit and make his life as miserable as possible. 

Eddie plays four characters: the pug dog (which he voices), Norbit, Rasputia and Mr Wong. The Mr Wong character was just borderline racist; what's with Eddie Murphy in Asian face putting on a mock Asian accent? I am a fan of Eddie Murphy's earlier movies of the 1980s and 1990s, but that was just a sheer low to witness. Meanwhile, Rasputia is a horrible meanie and utterly abhorrent and it seems she is the caricature of the aggressive Black woman trope and thus, acts as a negative stereotype. 

This is also the Eddie Murphy movie where his character doesn't have a moustache, which was a first.

Unlike the first Nutty Professor film, Norbit had little to no heart, whilst the humour is just generally mean-spirited and at times derogatory when it involves Murphy as the Asian father. Murphy has done so much better; he's had a so-so 1990s career, whilst I enjoyed the good-hearted Daddy Day Care, so how on earth Eddie went from that to something as low-brow, but also tacky and lacking in substance with the B-word being uttered as Norbit and the ranting Rasputia, is frankly bemusing. Most of the jokes revolve around Norbit's wife being fat and the writing reeks of lazy, as well as crass. 

I never cared for the Academy Awards and the people who nominate such movies and actors for awards, but the fact that Norbit was nominated for an Oscar just further shows out-of-touch they are and that they don't speak for me, nor do their results determine what movies I choose to watch. Also seeing Cuba Gooding Jr, a former Oscar best-supporting actor winner for Jerry Maguire stoop as low as this, is not surprising as his film career continued to spiral downhill. The remaining performances were okay, but the script was just painful and with comedy that is just not good enough, to be honest.

I am all for silly comedies, low- brow comedies and I have said this before and that I don't mind them, as long as they are not mean-spirited, crass and that they make me feel good. Norbit is just not that film that does it, nor is it any of those things. None of the characters come across as redeemable or relatable, likeable or even sympathetic enough, Norbit, as much as I should be feeling sorry for him, lacks any softness or subtlety that Sherman Klump of the Nutty Professor exudes. I will say that one or two times I did chuckle, but the complete lack of subtlety and scenes that were pleasant and pleasing prevented it from being a guilty pleasure for me. Additionally, besides the crude humour, the rest of the film is just bland to the core & so poorly conceived that eventually descends into tedium and the romantic element fails to materialise. Thandie Newton failed to impress as Norbit's love interest. 

Even as a fan of Eddie Murphy and most of his movies, and I have said this before time and again, but much like with Robin Williams, he also churned out a lot of awful stuff over the years, particularly the 2000s. Norbit is one of them and should be considered as one of the lowest of the lows of Murphy's career. Terrible humour, lack of genuine laughs and good humour, utterly mean-spirited and crude in nature with unlikeable characters, Norbit is sadly another stinker from Murphy's filmography. 

Final Verdict:

It wouldn't have been so bad for me had it had any feel-good factor and it was a comedy where I could enjoy it fully, which was also hilarious and amusing but also it had heart in places too. Yet in Norbit, but for the latter, there just wasn't enough of them. & it felt ugly also. One would be hard-pressed to find any redeemable qualities in this one. 

Bowfinger was fantastic, Trading Places was fab and even Metro and Vampire In Brooklyn were all right. But with Norbit, though with others they will see to it as a misunderstood piece of comedy, unfortunately for me personally, this was just a complete and sheer train-wreck that is also unsalvageable. 


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