Eddie Murphy in another fat suit? What could possibly go wrong with that? Oh, plenty, let me tell you.
For all of Murphy's silly, latex-laden, heavily made-up comedies, there has always been a somewhat sweet story at its center, such as in The Nutty Professor and Coming to America. Not so in Norbit. It's really only about being mean-spirited--and, well, fat. The story centers on a geek, Norbit (Murphy), raised in an orphanage by a Chinese restaurant owner (also Murphy) who ends up marrying a rather obese bully named Rasputia (Murphy again). When his childhood sweetheart Kate (Thandie Newton) comes back to town, however, Norbit sees a light at the end of the tunnel to his miserable existence. Now if he could only move his wife's enormous derriere out of the way to reach the end of that tunnel...
Please tell me Murphy was talked into this. Yes, he has followed a certain comedic formula in the last few years that has worked for him. But with Norbit, it seems like they came up with the fat suit first and said, "Oh, who cares about a story, Eddie will be hilarious in this." Um, not quite. There are a few moments in which Rasputia's antics make you chuckle, but Murphy's interpretation of a big, proudand mean--black woman gets very tiresome, very quickly. And as Norbit, Murphy doesn't necessarily elicit the same kind of empathy he did in, say, The Nutty Professor. Actually, it's as the Chinese guy, Mr. Wong, that Murphy shinesbut he isn't on screen much. Then there are the rest of the actors who got roped into Norbit. There's a laundry list of black comedic actors, including Eddie Griffin, Marlon Wayans, Katt Williamseven Cuba Gooding Jr. shows up as Kate's sleazy fiancé. Surprised? The real surprise is why Newton--who was so heartbreaking in Crash--would do Norbit. To show she has a cute, slightly ditzy, sugary sweet side? It isn't necessary.
The only redeeming factor to Norbit IS the makeup. Oscar-winning makeup guru Rick Baker, who worked on the Nutty Professors with Murphy, keeps perfecting his fat-suit skillsin a grotesquely corpulent way. There are all kinds of glorious cellulite in Norbit, from all angles, to behold. And as Mr. Wong, Murphy is definitely unrecognizable. But while the film's characters look realistic, it's the rest of Norbit which feels slapped together. In fact, there are times when you can actually see the boom mic in the shot. Hello? Isn't that one of the first things they teach you in film school? Then again, seeing director Brian Robbins' name on the credits--the guy who has directed such stellar entertainment as The Perfect Score and The Shaggy Dog--might be your first clue Norbit isn't going to be anything but the broadest and the most idiotic of comedies. The sad thing is, it will probably make a ton of money, and they'll end up doing a sequel. Can't wait.
Hollywood.com rated this film 1 star.