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Reviews » HD DVD Reviews » Norbit (HD DVD)
Norbit (HD DVD)
Dreamworks // PG-13 // June 5, 2007 // Region 0
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 26, 2007 | E-mail the Author
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I started watching Norbit this afternoon, and y'know...? It wasn't as good as I thought it was gonna be. I mean, what with the glowing reviews and all, and wasn't Eddie Murphy up for some kind of award or something?

Since Eddie Murphy made Universal a big stack of money playing eight quadraseptazillion different roles in The Nutty Professor, Dreamworks has him do the same schtick again here. The first of Murphy's three characters is Norbit, a meek dweeb with a goofy afro and an underbite, speaking in the sort of froggy voice that was inexplicably box office gold for Adam Sandler ten years ago. After his birth parents abandon him, Norbit's taken in by the kindly old Mr. Wong. If you forget that Mr. Wong's supposed to be Chinese, his orphanage is also a Chinese restaurant, he speak-a in broken Engrish, he compares Norbit's dick as a toddler to an eggroll, and he knows kung-fu. I guess the producers couldn't rustle up a gong or any cats to drop in a deep fryer. Wong's running joke is that he's a raging racist, something that doesn't seem entirely out of place in a flick where the lead character's best friends are pimps who own a rib shack.

...and then there's Rasputia. If you missed the cover art, Rasputia's fat. Deluding herself into thinking she's a fox, she belts out "Don't Cha" by the Pussycat Dolls. See, it's ironic 'cause she's really, really fat. She washes her car to the tune of "Milkshake", even though her milkshake does not bring all the boys to the yard on account of her being so fat. Rasputia runs a bath, but when she gets in the tub, all of the water sloshes out because she's really, really fat! At Norbit's wedding, there's a big bite that someone chomped out of the wedding cake. Everyone looks around to see who could've done it, and even though Rasputia has white frosting all over her face, she sasses, "I ain't had no damn cake!" See? Even though she insists that she didn't touch it, the incriminating frosting smeared across her lips suggests that she did, in fact, eat the damn cake! Genius! She breaks a turnstile at a water park 'cause it wasn't designed for someone so fat, and when she careens down a water slide, she plows through a fence and crushes a kid in a wading pool! You know why? Because she's fat!!!!! I kept my fingers crossed for twenty years praying for a sequel to Disorderlies, and the auteur behind Good Burger has delivered the next best thing. Don't get the wrong impression, though; Norbit is hardly just 102 minutes of fat jokes. There are plenty of dick, fart, poop, titty, and even pubic hair jokes too!!!!!

There's kind of a story thinly stringing it all together. Norbit and Kate were the best of pals at Mr. Wong's orphanage, but when Kate was adopted, Norbit was left by his lonesome. Too timid to care for himself or make new friends, Norbit was every bully's punching bag until a behemoth named Rasputia stomped to his defense and informed Norbit that she's his girlfriend. Norbit meekly went along with it, tormented by the morbidly obese, unreedemably cruel woman he eventually married and her three thuggish brothers who run a protection racket. He doesn't realize how miserable his life is until Kate trots back into town. His petite, adorable childhood crush, now played by Thandie Newton, squirreled away a bunch of cash and wants to take over Wong's orphanage when he retires. Norbit has to settle for just being pals since he's married and she's ::sniffles!:: engaged, but even all these years later, there's still a spark between 'em. The intensely jealous Rasputia sniffs out the romance in the air and does her damndest to keep the two apart. Her brothers, meanwhile, concoct a scheme with Kate's money-grubbing fiance (Cuba Gooding Jr.) to steal Wong's orphanage and turn it into a titty bar called Nipplopolis. So yeah, there are a bunch of cute scenes with our would-be lovebirds, a bit where Rasputia forces Norbit to break Kate's heart, a last-minute wedding that Norbit has to put a halt to...you know the drill.

It's just bland, forgettable stuff from screenwriters, a director, and a lead actor who've carved out a niche for themselves in the bland and forgettable. It's a drag because Norbit does have some sparks of imagination, opening at a Chinese restaurant-slash-orphanage run by a psychopath who chucks a spear at a wooden whale his kids are lugging around, and it closes on a battle royale that comes completely out of left field (which is exactly where climactic battle royales should come from). Eddie Murphy is an immensely talented actor who loses himself in the three characters he plays; if his Mr. Wong had been dropped in another movie, I would never have been able to guess he was played by Murphy without cheating. It's just not funny, in keeping with Murphy's inability to get a laugh since he stopped chasing transvestite prostitutes ten years ago. The humor's tired and has been recycled over and over again in a couple hundred other movies, and as loud and over the top as characters like Rasputia are, the sort of manic energy you'd expect from an Eddie Murphy flick is wholly absent. It's just lazy, lethargic, and really mean-sprited.

Quite possibly the worst movie of 2007, Norbit somehow managed to rake in more than $95 million at the box office, and at $8.50 a pop, that's...oh, 11.2 million people who won't be getting Christmas cards from me this year. Learn from their mistake.

Video: The 1.78:1, AVC-encoded video has an overprocessed look to it, cranking up the colors and smoothening out the image. The exaggerated hues leap off the screen, but the level of fine detail is middling. Particularly tight close-ups look fantastic -- and it's remarkable how well Rick Baker's make-up holds up to such revealing shots in high-definition -- but there's a tinge of softness when the camera eases back. There was never any doubt that I was watching a movie on HD DVD, but I'd expect a bright, glossy comedy like this to really impress. Norbit instead falls somewhere in the neighborhood of "really good"; hardly disappointing but not exactly great either.

Audio: Like most comedies, Norbit's multichannel sound design anchors most of the action up front, sparingly using the surrounds to reinforce effects such as a particularly loud splash that closes out the money shot in the water park and the choir-backed testifyin' in the church. The movie's dialogue emerges pretty well, and Rasputia's stomping is accompanied by hefty waves of bass. Ordinary but fine.

There are also 5.1 tracks in Spanish and French as well as subtitles in all three languages.

Extras: At least Norbit tosses all but one of its extras on in high-definition, something a bafflingly small number of HD DVDs bother to do.

"The Making of Norbit" (22 min.) is a standard issue promotional piece. Y'know, here's a list of the outrageous and crazy characters, and boy, aren't the actors who play 'em great? There's a little meat in there too, though, touching on the costuming (Rasputia wears a 50i bra, if you're curious), how the story came together, and the extensive visual effects work. Eddie Murphy's interviews are upscaled from standard definition, but pretty much all of the rest of the footage is in high-def. Oh, and Thandie Newton speaks with a British accent that makes her that much hotter.

Rick Baker's make-up effects get a featurette of their own: "Man of a Thousand Faces". Clocking in at three and a half minutes, the only standard definition extra on the disc looks at the design and application of the elaborate make-up for the three characters Murphy plays. The last of these three making-of clips is a surprisingly comprehensive stunts featurette (12 min.) that notes the added complexity the fat suit added to mapping out the stuntwork, and it takes a look at how all of the movie's big stunt sequences were put together. There's also a peek at storyboards, test footage, and stunt doubles in creepy half-Rasputia make-up.

A gallery of fourteen deleted scenes might sound like a lot, but they barely run eight minutes in total, and most of 'em are just long enough to squeeze out one joke. The highlights, if you wanna call 'em that, include a forced marriage proposal, a longer version of Kate meeting Norbit's thuggish brothers-in-law, Norbit trying out some pick-up lines on the pimps', um, bitches, an extended take on Norbit's escape from the basement, and a couple extra gags that would've closed out the flick.

"Power Tap" (5 min.) is a fake promo for Marlon Wayans' character's tap dance-slash-workout program, and a still gallery and a high-def theatrical trailer round out the extras.

Conclusion: Awwww...it took me a while to hammer out those five or six paragraphs up top, and you want to skip past it so I can sum it all up in a couple of words? Okay, you win: Skip It.
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