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I'm going to date myself with this comment, but I remember when Eddie Murphy was funny. There was a time when people tuned in to Saturday Night Live mainly to see his riotously humorous performances. After he left that show, he had a string of hilarious movies too: 48 hours, Beverly Hills Cop, and Trading Places were all fun and enjoyable films. Then something went wrong, and just a handful of years later he was staring in such forgettable vehicles as The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Doctor Doolittle. He seemed to have straightened out his act with his excellent performance in Dreamgirls, but just as he was being nominated for an Oscar for that role, Norbit was released. Many people blame his loss of the Academy Award on this film, and after seeing it, I tend to agree with that camp. It would be hard to give someone the coveted golden statue when dreck like this is still in people's memories. This film is a train wreck. It's not funny, it's not romantic, it has dislikable characters and it is fairly offensive. This is one time when a film truly deserves all of the bad reviews that it has garnered.
This supposed comedy opens with a shot of an infant being thrown out of a moving car. Mr. Wong (Eddie Murphy) who runs a Chinese restaurant that also doubles as an orphanage finds the child the next morning. "Crap! Another black one. You can't give these away." he mutters. "Ohh, you ugly black one too. You be here long time. Nobody every come and say, 'Give me the ugly, black one.' " He tells the child while bringing him inside. (Ya know if Don Imus had said this stuff, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton would demand his head on a platter.)
A few years later, the child, Norbit, has only one friend; a girl named Kate. When Kate gets adopted however, Norbit is all alone. He get picked on by bullies on a regular basis until he meets Rasputia, a rather large young girl whose quite strong and takes a shine to the shy, awkward boy. Time goes by and the two grow up (and both roles are now played by Eddie Murphy) and get married. Rasputia's brothers make up the local crime syndicate, and Norbit gets a job working for their construction company. He's constantly abused by his obese wife, both emotionally and physically, but the dim-witted Norbit just takes it in stride. That is until Kate comes back into town. (Played by the über-hottie Thandie Newton (Crash).) Norbit quickly falls in love with Kate, but he can't do anything about it since his brother-in-laws will kill him, and Kate is engaged to be married.
This movie is offensive, inane, and plodding. The worst offense however is that it just isn't funny at all. It's filled with fart jokes and base humor, which I often enjoy, but the setups are so lame that none of the jokes pay off. I didn't laugh at all during the movie and only cracked a smile once.
There are a lot of reasons for that. First of all, none of the characters are likable or sympathetic. Norbit is so weak-willed and nerdy (he talks with an irritating lisp too) that I was hoping the villains would catch him during the big chase at the end and beat him to death. Rasputia is just vile and mean (there's a scene where she chases and eventually runs down a dog with her car. When's the last time you saw that in a comedy?) Her brothers are just common thugs and Mr. Wong is a racist. (As he says at one point "Wong very racist. Don't like black. Don't like Jew either. But black and Jew love Chinese food. Go figure.") We're supposed to enjoy watching these people?
The film was constructing poorly too. It was basically an accumulation of different scenes that were thrown together with a very thin plot to tie it together. There were a lot of segments that just didn't make any sense. Going to the water park for example; this ten minute scene was seemingly included in the film so that two jokes could be shoe-horned in.
The cast all seemed like they only showed up on the set to collect their paychecks. Eddie Murphy just walks through his three roles. He's done characters like this in the past, and he brings nothing new to the roles. Heck, he isn't even as funny as he was in The Nutty Professor, and that's saying a lot. Cuba Gooding Jr., who can be an excellent actor, phoned his performance in, and there was a bad connection too.
The only aspect of quality to this whole production is Rick Baker's makeup special effects. He created the rubber suit that turns Murphy into a 300+ pound woman and an old oriental man. Both of these were outstanding. It took me several scenes before I even realized that Murphy was playing Mr. Wong. Rasputia's rolls of flesh jiggled and moved in a realistic manner, and though it is easy to tell that it's Murphy under all those appliances, it is very impressive none the less. It's just too bad that there wasn't anything else good about the movie.
The 1080p image wasn't as bad as the movie itself, but then again it wasn't stellar either. For a Blu-ray disc, I'd say it's an average presentation. The level of detail was usually fine, but the picture wasn't as sharp and crisp as the best HD images. The skin tones were off a little too, making people take on a plastic sheen in a few scenes. The colors were bright, but they looked like they were boosted in postproduction and it gave the whole movie a less than real appearance. Look at the '65 Mustang at the beginning. The light blue is gorgeous, but it didn't look like the color of a car, more like a color someone playing with Photoshop would select. There was also a bit of noise in the image, but it was never distracting. Overall this is an adequate looking BD, but not more than that.
This movie comes with DD 5.1 tracks in English, French and Spanish, and there are optional subtitles in those three languages also. The audio mix is pretty uninspiring. The dialog is firmly centered on the screen, and just about all of the sound is limited to the front of the soundstage. The sub gets a bit of work to do whenever Rasputia takes a step, but that's about it. Since this is supposed to be a comedy, I wasn't expecting much more. There wasn't any distortion or other common audio defects.
This disc has a pretty good selection of bonus features. It's too bad that the movie was so mind-numbingly bad that watching them turned into a chore. The good news is that all but one of these extras are presented in high definition. This disc includes The Making of Norbit, a 21-minute fluff piece where the cast talks about the story and says nice things about each other. Man of a Thousand Faces is a 3½-minute short was the most interesting since it focused on Rick Baker's excellent makeup work and 'character' designs. They interview the cast and crew and Baker himself. Unfortunately this was also the only bonus item that is presented in 480i.
Power Tap is a mock infomercial featuring Marlon Wayans' exercise system that is featured in the movie. It is incredibly unfunny. Next up is The Stunts of Norbit, an 11-minute featurette the looks at the physical stunts in the movie (there actually weren't too many.) There are also 14 deleted scenes that run less than 10-minutes all together. None of these were major scenes, just short bits with a joke or two, and none of them should have been included in the movie itself. The disc is rounded out by a photo gallery and theatrical trailer for the movie.
This movie really has very little redeeming value. After seeing it, I honestly believe that Norbit cost Eddie Murphy an Oscar. Hopefully he'll stop accepting roles like this, no matter how big the paycheck, and stick to more quality productions from now on. Avoid this movie like the plague. Skip it.