Judge Ryan Keefer thinks that if it walks like a dog, smells like a dog and barks like a dog, then chances are...
Have you ever made a really big mistake? (Note: No, this is not regarding the decision of DreamWorks studio heads, this really was the tagline for the movie posters)
Judge Brett Cullum does steal my thunder a bit when I try to discuss how Norbit made Alan Arkin the Best Supporting Actor at the 2007 Oscars. However, Paramount released a handful of older Eddie Murphy catalog titles (like Trading Places) to go with the video release of Norbit. So at the end of the day, how does this look in high definition?
Facts of the Case
Eddie and brother Charlie (Chappelle's Show) wrote this story that was directed by Brian Robbins, formerly Eric of Head of the Class fame but director of things like Ready to Rumble. Norbit (Murphy) was left at a combination orphanage and Chinese restaurant, and was raised by Mr. Wong (also played by Murphy). Norbit grows up and marries Rasputia, a longtime acquaintance from grade school who protected Norbit from bullies while generally expanding in size and mass. On the whole Rasputia treats Norbit badly, and when Norbit's friend from the orphanage, Kate (Thandie Newton, Crash) returns and is all grown up, Norbit discovers he wants to be with Kate, despite her pending nuptials to Deion (Cuba Gooding Jr., Jerry Maguire).
Conspiracy theories about Murphy's presumed Oscar for Dreamgirls aside, at what point do the alarm bells go off for anyone in this movie that it's going to tank? Robbins did a wrestling movie with David Arquette, Gooding was the star of Boat Trip, and in supporting roles, Eddie Griffin and Marlon Wayans have helped "carry" Undercover Brother and Little Man, respectively. The film is supposed to be set in Tennessee but is so opaquely filmed on a California soundstage that you can even sense how much the filmmakers don't care how Norbit is going to pan out, good or bad.
Even more discouraging is the type of business that Norbit brought in. It made almost $100 million. It will probably see some sort of sequel, much like Beverly Hills Cop III, Another 48 Hrs., Dr. Dolittle 2 and Nutty Professor II. You did this America, I hope you're proud of yourself. Norbit is devoid of any enjoyable characters, devoid of any real romantic chemistry and oddly enough, devoid of any comedy. What is plentiful though, thanks to the Murphys' script and Robbins' direction, are improvisations by a lot of comedians that don't make you laugh, stupid jokes by talented people (Newton's role as eye candy is pathetic to watch and a waste of her faculties), and as one finds out when watching the making of look at the film, a concept that even Eddie was unsure of and wondered why it was funny. So why go through with it Eddie? Because of this you've pretty much relegated yourself into family films that serve as a distraction for overworked parents to dump their kids into multiplexes. Hope you're proud.
From a technical perspective, the 1.85:1 1080p MPEG-4 encoded transfer doesn't do much to flesh out any significant sharpness or detail to the image. The film's whites are a little overblown and it's somewhat annoying, maybe it was an artistic choice to hide the seams of computer generated action or whatnot, I don't know. The Dolby Digital-Plus soundtrack does enough for the songs, which are ample through the film to sound clear, and the film's dynamic range occasionally makes it a little more sonically active than you'd expect, but neither of which makes you write home to Mama.
Mercifully, the extras on Norbit are kept to a minimum. There's a making of featurette with interviews from the cast and crew, as they share their thoughts about the story, and of Eddie, you know, the usual stuff. After that are a couple of looks at the extensive prosthetics for the film and for the stunts (?), along with an infomercial with Wayans in character, demonstrating the value of the "Power Tap" dance that appears for fifteen seconds in the film. Some deleted scenes, a photo gallery and the trailer round things out.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Umm, nothing. Sorry, check that, in a supporting role as one of Rasputia's brother's henchmen is Lester Speight, who I remember and love from the Reebok commercials of several years ago that featured "Terry Tate, Office Linebacker." But past that, there really is nothing positive I can say to better the experience of watching Norbit, and quite frankly if you've got something nice to say about a film, chances are that Brian Robbins isn't involved with it.
I encourage you, don't see Norbit. If it's on your Netflix queue, cancel the membership. If it's in your local movie store, don't burn the store down, but burn any copies of it. If a channel airs it, boycott its sponsors. Let's all make sure that something like this makes it into as few eyes and ears as possible. Together, we can do this. Together, we can better America.
Charlie Murphy is apparently still reeling from getting punched in the face by Rick James two decades earlier, as this thing is a mess, worthy of an easy guilty verdict.
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