Director Brian Robbins (Norbit), working from a script by Steve Koren (Jack and Jill, Bruce Almighty) gives us an unfunny comedy that fails to showcase the comedic and acting talents of Eddie Murphy, a guy who has serious chops in those areas. Sadly, we haven’t seen a lot of his comedy genius of late, although we did get to see him doing some great acting in Dreamgirls. But that was almost six years ago and what we’ve seen him in since is nothing to write home about. His latest effort, Tower Heist was a serious disappointment.
So here comes A Thousand Words, the story of a man who makes his living with words, as a slick, polished agent who represents writers, who finds himself in danger of dying if he doesn’t shut up. Murphy is “Jack McCall”, who seems to have it all. A great career, the great wife (Kerry Washington as “Caroline McCall”), a child, a gorgeous home and yard, even an assistant at work who would gladly do almost anything to curry favor with his boss (Clark Duke).
Then Jack decides his next big deal is going to be getting the famous Dr. Sinja, leader of a spiritual movement that has a massive amount of followers to let him represent the book that Sinja has written. He finds a way to get an audience with the doctor and that leads to two things. One is an agreement where Jack will be the agent for Dr. Sinja’s book, and the other is an encounter with an amazing tree located at the ‘retreat’ where the Doctor shepherds his flock.
Except that somehow the tree has been magically transplanted to the garden at Jack’s lovely home and with every word Jack speaks, one of the leaves on the tree falls to the ground, dead. Soon, Dr. Sinja reveals to Jack that his life and that of the tree are somehow intertwined and if all the leaves die, then the tree will die. Apparently, Jack will die as well.
There wasn’t a lot that was funny up to this point and as the movie proceeds onward, this is probably where the laughs should come from, as Jack deals with trying to conduct his busy life without saying a word. Through some mystical thing, he’s unable to write words down either, as the written word is just as deadly to the leaves of the tree as the spoken word is. An attempted meeting with one book publisher goes awry as Jack tries to get his assistant Aaron to do the talking. Another causes problems with his boss (Allison Janney as Samantha) and meanwhile he’s having trouble with his wife. She’s unhappy and he wants to change that, but being unable to speak gives him almost no way to help her. Dr. Sinja is abroad on business and has promised to try to discover anything that might help, but assistance from that front is not on the horizon.
A comedy that is a laugh-a-minute is wonderful. A comedy that manages to generate enough laughs from start to finish to satisfy the audience is fine. A comedy that can’t generate a single instance of loud laughter is a failure, and A Thousand Words can’t quite reach even that lowly standard. Someone told me that it was rated zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes and I feel that rating may well be too generous.