Two mini-controversies seemed to surround this movie, Norbit, before it’s spring 2007 release. First was the movie’s difficult time to obtain a PG-13 rating. It went back to the editing suite a few times, reportedly, to get that PG-13 brand just in time for the release date. Second was this movie helped torpedoed Eddie Murphy’s chance to win the Oscar for his work in Dreamgirls. A bit ridiculous, yes, but it kept the movie in the headlines. So with the movie now hitting shelves this week, was it worth all trouble? Well, no. Not really.
Norbit (Eddie Murphy) has never had it easy. As a baby, he was abandoned on the steps of a Chinese restaurant/orphanage and raised by Mr. Wong (Eddie Murphy). Things get worse when he’s forced into marriage by the mean, junk food-chugging queen, Rasputia (Eddie Murphy). Just when Norbit’s hanging by his last thread, his childhood sweetheart, Kate (Thandie Newton), moves back to town. In the comedy Norbit, he’ll find that nice guys sometimes finish first.
I’m not really sure how to review this movie. Is it a great movie? No. Does it have some funny moments? A few, yes, but the movie is also all over the place. It seems to go back and forth from sweet comedy to a loud, obnoxious raunchy flick. I can definitely see how this movie would need multiple cuts to get that PG-13 rating, some scenes in here are obviously trimmed for content (which is a bit of a shocker given the “family-friendly” movie the TV commercials were selling only months ago).
As you may have guessed, Murphy has returned to the shtick that brought back his career so long ago. He’s not only back in the latex, but he’s also playing multiple roles. Not only is he the lead player Norbit and the devilish whale Rasputia, but he also plays Mr. Wong, Norbit’s Asian father figure. Rick Baker, one of the best special effects guys in Hollywood, does an amazing job using prosthetics and latex to bring both Mr. Wong and Rasputia to life, so to speak. Looking on his work here, for a comedy no less, it’s easy to see how his reputation for being able to tackle anything comes from.
The characters are not much more than caricatures. Rasputia, the “big bad” of the movie, is a collection of stereotypes left and right. Whether it’s her “talk to the hand” type attitude or her hand-waving finger snaps, she doesn’t really amount to much more than that. She’s throws her weight around (pun intended) and gets what she wants. No real character and no real story behind her. Her brothers get even less development, only showing up when the story requires it. Given the predictable nature of the movie, the mean-spirited actions toward Norbit by this over-sized villainess will surely result in her comeuppance before the end of the movie, robbing any genuine emotion the movie may convey.
In fact, every aspect of the movie leans toward the predictable. We know Murphy is going to fall back into the arms of his childhood sweetheart. We know Norbit and Rasputia are so comically mismatched that not only will bad things come of it, but both parties will get what they deserve by the clumsy third act. There’s no real surprise at all to anything in this movie. Once the plot of the movie unfolds, we know exactly where it’s going (although the “just deserts” for Rasputia and her family is worth a chuckle).
As predictable as the movie is, some people say “it’s not about the destination, but the journey.” So, is this a journey worth undergoing? Maybe once, but this isn’t a movie I can’t see me watching again. I did laugh at a couple scenes here and there and found it a fine distraction for an hour and a half or so, but I’m just not crazy about it. It’s alright, but didn’t leave any real impression on me (besides Thandie Newton being one of the nicest women imaginable). Extraordinarily silly, frequently crude and extremely mean-spirited, Norbit does have a couple moments of inspiration. For instance, a wedding is interrupted by wannabe pimps who launch a profane gospel groove. Or the dog that talks to Norbit while he is semi-conscious, telling him he needs to get rid of Rasputia. I’m sure a lot of people will enjoy it, as it was a pretty big box office hit, but I’m just not one of those who were crazy for it.
The DVD itself is par for the course. The 1.85:1 transfer looks fine for this standard DVD release. Every roll of fat can be seen crystal clear, and every chomp and stomp heard loud and clear. As you can guess, the audio set-up is typical for the release, as well. The dialogue is loud and clear and the music comes in loud and crystal when it randomly blares on screen from time to time.
The extras are pretty nondescript. The added content includes a standard EPK making-of featurette, a “Man of a Thousand Faces” featurette focusing on Baker’s prosthetic work, an overview of the stunts involved in the film, and an infomercial for the “Power Tap” exercise program (a brief subplot in the film). On top of that, we’re also given fourteen extended and deleted scenes from the movie. As can be expected, none of them really add anything to the movie. What we get is a pretty typical batch of extras for this release. A good diversion, much like the movie, but nothing more than that.
So, much like my review, this movie was all over the place. Overall, I’d have to say Skip It. While I got a few laughs out of the 102 minute running time, it movie didn’t leave me wanting more or wanting to even see it again. If you’re so compelled to see this film, then give it a rental. I can’t recommend this film, personally. I will say the special effects created by Rick Baker are just amazing, but the rest? Sorry, but Norbit simply can’t follow through.
Norbit arrives on DVD June 5th, 2007.