Eddie Murphy stars as Jack McCall in "A Thousand Words."
Scene in a studio screening room, circa 2008, after the CEO has screened Eddie Murphy's alleged comedy A Thousand Words:
"Let me see if I have this right. We paid $10 million to Eddie Murphy to not talk in a movie? Made by the guy who did Norbit??!! Okay, you, you and you are fired! And you, cowering in the corner, bury this piece of crap in the vault and never speak of it again. And then clean out your desk, you're fired!"
Times change, of course. And when Murphy was tapped to host the Oscars, somebody clearly looked at what they had -- however horrible -- that could get an "Oscar bounce," dusted off A Thousand Words and skedded it appropriately.
Who knows, they may even have been inspired in some thick-headed way by the silent success of The Artist.
We won't run through the saga of how Murphy ended up quitting the Oscars.
Suffice to say, a billion (yeah, I know, not really) Oscar viewers narrowly escaped a plethora of plugs for this mirthless excuse to watch Murphy play charades for 90 minutes.
The dated Hannah Montana references are the least of the stones weighing down A Thousand Words. Everybody in it seems to know they're in a bomb, and I swear I saw Murphy's lip curl over having to deliver the punchline in exchanges like, "But Jack, it's a spiritual movement!" -- "I have a spiritual movement every time I eat a bran muffin."
The contrivance is this: Murphy plays Jack McCall, an agent who talks so fast he makes Entourage's Ari Gold look like Ben Stein calling for Ferris Bueller. He picks the wrong schmooze target when he attempts to woo a superstar pop guru (Cliff Curtis) who picks up on all his bad karma.
Said karma includes being mean to everybody, including his devoted, nerdy assistant (Hot Tub Time Machine's Clark Duke), his wife (Kerry Washington) and their new baby (whose diapers he has never changed). There's also a whole lot of deep-seated anger against the dad who abandoned him as a child.
All these issues become magically embodied in a bodhi tree that follows Jack from the ashram and blasts its way out of the concrete next to his pool.
From that point on, every word out of his mouth causes a leaf to fall, with the end game being that he'll die with the last leaf.
Cue the hilarity as Murphy tries to communicate wordlessly (writing words down is the same as saying them, leaves fall regardless). He brokers a deal with a book publisher on a conference call by pulling the strings of various talking dolls (not funny). His gardener waters the tree and Jack starts sweating at a business meeting. He explains the scenario of what happened to him with stick figure pictures (which was probably how the movie was pitched in the first place).
Closest thing to sort-of funny: Jack figuring out how to order at Starbucks using charade clues. There's enough bounce-back from 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer to almost make that one bit work.