Eddie Murphy returns to form, moviegoers should flee

2008-10-02 08:05

THE poster for Norbit really should say it all and act as a big red flag warning you not to go near this one.

On a plain white background, a hugely overweight black woman, hideously attired in a skimpy, bright pink, frilly nightgown, sits astride a thin black man with glasses, nerdy attire and a ridiculously overblown look of horror on his face. The tagline is, “Have you ever made a really big mistake?”.

Both characters, of course, are Eddie Murphy in make-up, who also plays the Chinese foster father of central character Norbit, the nerdy guy in glasses. You don't really even need to watch this film to know what it's about … just look at the poster and, if you have any sense, turn around, walk out, get back into your car and go home.

The story is this: weedy Norbit makes a big mistake and marries a hugely obese, dominating bully, then needs to find a way to extricate himself from the union, or from under her body, according to the poster. The pencil-thin love of his childhood at Wong Ton's restaurant and orphanage, played by Thandie Newton, comes back into his life but predictably has a rogue boyfriend (Cuba Gooding Junior) Norbit needs to get round, while fending off the wild rage of his massive, near-psychopathic wife.

Which is all of course, just highly offensive, cheap and not all that funny, really. Obesity and racial and ethnic stereotypes are the butt (no pun intended) of just about every laugh, or lack of it, in the film, apart from fart-jokes, poor slapstick and cheap gags.

Then again, Pietermaritzburg cinema-goers seem to see this sort of film as more of a red flag to a bull rather than a warning to keep away, as people charge to the cinemas to see Murphy's latest serving of bollocks, while intelligent, artistic contributions such as The Last King of Scotland and The Queen battle to pull in even a handful of viewers.

Mr Bean and Eddie Murphy fat jokes sell like hotcakes, so it is no wonder most of the good movies pass this town by, except on DVD, and then you have to do plenty of digging around too, or just resort to Amazon.com.

But, I'm getting side-tracked. After earning rave reviews for his part in the musical Dreamgirls, Norbit is Murphy's return to the cheesy, overly pink, yellow, green and blue, tacky movies he has for the most part spewed out for the past decade, from Daddy Day Care to The Nutty Professor. Obese, screaming, over-the-top characters are what we are supposed to find entertaining.

Whatever happened to the dark, foul-mouthed, in your face Murphy of Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hours and Trading Places? There are moments in Norbit where we catch a glimpse of the comic genius peering through the make-up and props, but they are too few and far between. **

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