Norbit (2007)

(On DVD, January 2008) Every year, the Oscars play a dirty trick on completists by nominating the worst sort of tripe for one of the technical categories. Last year it was Click; this year it’s Norbit for best make-up. Well, props to the Academy: The makeup effects that allow Eddie Murphy to play three roles alongside himself are top-notch and withstand way-too-close scrutiny. On the other hand, makeup is the only thing worth noticing about this tedious comedy that multiplies the Murphy Mugging factor. The plot concerns a henpecked man (Murphy), raised by an adoptive father (Murphy), hounded by a massive wife (Murphy) rediscovering his inner strength when a long-lost love (Thandie Newton, to be pitied) moves back into town. There’s little to the predictable plot but a series of fat jokes and slight gags. The characters aren’t caricatures; they’re lobotomized stereotypes that highlight how the film was made for 12-year-old audience. The script is leadened with a series of overused jokes, unfunny concepts and dumb staging that will only make sense if you know nothing about the way the world works. (Hence the ideal 12-year-olds audience). Occasionally, Norbit manages to strike a mildly amusing note or two; otherwise, it’s a dreadful experience without much value.

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