Jack:I guess you never know if the last time you see someone is going to be the last time you ever see someone.
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Eddie Murphy. Whether you know him from his standup, his work on SNL, or his movies such as The Golden Child, The Nutty Professor, Beverly Hills Cop, etc. all of his works have one thing in common: they are considered funny as Murphy is given funny things to say. This would seem obvious to just about anyone. So how do you explain a Thousand Words? This movie made the horrible move of casting Eddie Murphy as a man who can’t speak thus removing his greatest comedic asset. Despite being released in 2012 it was supposed to be released in 2008, which leads to a lot of dated jokes. However, the movie has far greater to attribute to its failings.
The story involves literary agent Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) who often exaggerates to acquire book deals. After exaggerating to a self-help guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) he finds a tree in his yard whose life force is bound to his. For every word Jack speaks, a leaf falls off the tree and when all of them fall the tree and Jack will die. He finds out he has a mere 1000 words left and must use those words carefully to find what truly matters in his life.
Eddie Murphy was gravely miscast, as his greatest strength has never been silent humor. The strength of his humor lies mostly through his talking and his character is largely a non-speaking one. However, this movie would have been bad regardless of who played Jack McCall, as the character is very unlikable. He’s very much obsessed with his work and much less on the problems with his family, a formula that has been done to death in so many movies with little to nothing new. The first couple of minutes show him lying about his wife going into labor merely to cut in line to get his latte. There are scenes with his therapist (which are given no context) where he in no way listens to anything his therapist is saying and rather just keeps talking. With that being said, Murphy’s performance during the scenes when he uses the last of his words to make peace with all his relationships is legitimately sincere but it’s only the last couple of minutes and by this point in the movie there is too much damage done.
The story about Jack attempting to get Dr. Sinja’s book published is also a rather dumb plot as the book is revealed to be a mere 5 pages and yet Jack still goes out of his way to get it published with no plan of what to do assuming the publishing company finds out the truth.
The curse as well as the lesson the movie is trying to teach is also rather confusing. Not only does talking count towards his word limit but also writing words counts (and to a lesser extent hand gestures as well). They try to root Jack’s problems in his late father walking out on him and his mother when he was a kid but these problems don’t connect at all to Jack’s wife and son and any problems with them had nothing to do with communication or even a lack thereof. And while Jack may not be the best husband and father, unlike his own father he did not walk out on them. If anything his inability to speak caused his wife take their son and walk out on him. The curse and lesson is similar to Jim Carrey’s Liar Liar. However unlike here, the curse and lesson in that movie were intertwined. Carrey’s character in that movie had a bad habit of lying and the curse made it so that he couldn’t lie and over the course of the movie he saw the error of his ways.
The jokes in the movie are roughly the same: Jack has to go through business dealings without speaking and anything that happens to the tree also happens to Jack as well. Any other jokes have little value as they date back to 2008 when the movie came out four years later.
A Thousand Words has a confusing premise and moral all combined with bad jokes. It picked up three Golden Raspberry nominations and while it didn’t win any of them, it didn’t make it any less worse. Eddie Murphy has had some bad movies, but this one is up there as one of the worst.