Aww, come on! Just as it was becoming okay again to love Eddie Murphy, here he goes starring in a godawful comedy. Far from me to join the misguided bloggers who are trying to swiftboat the guy out of the Oscar he should get for his electrifying performance in Dreamgirls. But it is disheartening to see Murphy, instead of following that up by taking more challenging roles and working with great filmmakers, going back to this kind of lowbrow, dumbass crap.
I’m not saying that Murphy shouldn’t make comedies anymore; I’d love for him to do another hilarious satire like Bowfinger or another wonderful romantic comedy like Coming to America – two pictures that, incidentally, also allowed him to play multiple characters. Heck, make another “Klumps” flick, anything but this! “Norbit” is a bottom-level farce, where no gag is too stupid, vulgar or needlessly stretched out. Worse, it’s jam-packed with embarrassing racial stereotypes, notably what’s become an unfortunate staple in black cinema: the Big Momma – played by a man in drag, natch.
Disgusting, ignorant, loud and mean, Rasputia (Murphy in a fat suit) is as obnoxious a character as I’ve ever seen on screen. Maybe not as much as Tyler Perry’s Madea or Martin Lawrence’s own Big Momma but in any case, that’s like saying this or that turd ain’t as bad as the others. The bottom line is that they all stink. Rasputia’s whole life seems to be about eating and making her husband, the titular Norbit (Murphy with big glasses and an afro), miserable. It’s unfortunate for the guy and for us, too, because on the rare occasions when he’s away from his monster of a wife, Norbit is actually an endearing enough character. He has a sweet relationship with his newly reacquainted childhood sweetheart (Thandie Newton), who’s kind of the Jenny to his Forrest Gump, and with Mr. Wong (Murphy under a lot of make-up), the owner of the Chinese restaurant/orphanage where he grew up.
Yet you can’t hardly even enjoy those moments because you know that, sooner or later, the morbidly obese Rasputia will barge in and start yelling nonsense and throwing people around. This is a painful, painful watch. When Eddie (hopefully) wins an Oscar anyway for his “Dreamgirls” turn later this month, he should take the opportunity to publicly apologize for “Norbit”.