Posted by: ckckred | August 13, 2012

A Thousand Words but Zero Laughs

Just another bad Eddie Murphy film

On a recent airplane ride, I decided to watch a few movies offered on the flight.  One of those films was A Thousand Words, the recent Eddie Murphy comedy that was critically panned and flopped at the box office.  Since nothing else was playing that I didn’t see or wasn’t interested in, I decided to watch A Thousand Words, which, unfortunately,is at the same level as pretty much every other Eddie Murphy movie that’s come out in the past decade.  And no, that’s not a compliment.

A Thousand Words is a tremendously unfunny film with a remarkably bad premise.  Dreamworks, who released the movie, must have known this because they kept the film in for about three years (you can tell because of the outdated references to Miley Cyrus).  The only reason A Thousand Words was ever released was to coincide with Eddie Murphy’s stint at the Oscars, which he resigned a few months before the awards show.  I think Dreamworks should have locked this film up like if it was the Ark of Covenant and have never let it out.

A Thousand Words is about a literary agent named Jack McCall (Murphy).  Jack is the kind of guy who will say anything to get what he wants, kind of like Jim Carrey’s character in the much better and funnier Liar Liar.  Jack has a caring wife (Ruby Dee) and young son, but is too busy to really focus on them.

When Jack promises to publish a book made by a famous guru (Cliff Curtis), he soon discovers it’s only five pages long and the guru (or some other force whatsoever) punishes him by connecting his spirit to a bodhi tree.  Whenever Jack says a word, a leaf falls off, and once all the leaves are gone, he’ll die.

How many leaves does a bodhi tree have?  I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than a thousand.  Roger Ebert guessed 100,000, which seems about right.  But A Thousand Words really doesn’t care about this but just trys to make you laugh, which it completely fails at.

This leads to Jack trying to find a way to talk (he can’t write, writing a word counts as a leaf) in ways that the filmmakers must have found very humorous.  In one scene, Jack acts out his order at a Starbucks.  In another, he uses talking dolls to answer a phone call.  Pretty much this makes up the entire film, and the gag gets old straight from the beginning.

The problem is nothing in the movie is really funny.  Near the end, A Thousand Words wants to become a drama, which doesn’t really work because the drama isn’t very believable or sincere.  Dramas can have comic elements and work well (The Descendants), but comedies with dramatic elements don’t.  A Thousand Words falls in the same pile as Click, which also wanted to be serious about family.

Listen, Eddie Murphy was at one point a really funny guy.  If you don’t believe me, just watch some of his old Saturday Night Live episodes or one of his movies like Trading Places.  But for the past fifteen years or so, Murphy has starred in a bunch of unfunny family comedies or idiotic Tyler Perry-like stuff that have tanked in the box office.

Murphy still has potential to be funny.  Even though I didn’t like Tower Heist, I thought Murphy did a good job there.  And I think he deserves better than junk like A Thousand Words, no matter how bad his career is right now.  I hope that Murphy will someday make good films again.  Everyone deserves a second chance.


  1. Eddie Murphy’s next movie will be called “I’m just here for a paycheck” or something. Poor guy.

    • It’s sad to see the movies he’s in now. Eddie Murphy used to be such a funny guy but now will do anything for a big fat paycheck. He’s not even trying anymore, he just cares about the money. Thanks for commenting.

  2. He needs a really good r-rated script. Isn’t there a new Beverly Hills Cop rumoured? He deserves something good.

    • I heard something about that. I hate the family friendly Murphy films. Murphy’s best when he’s really rude and profane, like Trading Places or Beverly Hill Cop. Thanks for commenting.

      • No worries. I actually enjoy him as Donkey in the Shrek films funnily enough, albeit I’ve only seen the first two. But yeah, he needs to be foul mouthed and angry, brings the best from him.

      • The Shrek films are pretty much the only decent thing he’s done in the past decade. But everything else he’s done has been awful. I like him better when he’s more foul-mothed than he is family friendly.

  3. One more example of the demise of American comedy. When the best we can do is Sandler or Murphy, we’re in trouble. I would argue that not a single comedy from the last ten years will stand the test of time.

    • It’s sad to what comedy has come to these days. Though he makes a film about once a year, Adam Sandler has to be the laziest comedian out there. His movies have idiotic humor with poorly written gags, and most of his films just seem like an excuse for him to go on vacation (in Grown Ups, he got to go to a cabin with all his friends, in Just Go With It, he went to Hawaii).

      As for Murphy, there once was a time where he was one of the most respected comedians in Hollywood. Now he’s just willing to star in anything as long as he gets a big fat paycheck. Thanks for commenting.

    • I would argue otherwise. Sure, Sandler and Murphy suck, but Juno will stand the test of time, so too will Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

      Haven’t seen this movie, and after this review and others, I don’t think I want to. :L

      • Oh, this one is bad. It makes Pluto Nash look like Dr. Strangelove in comparison. Thanks for commenting.

      • I wonder about Juno and Eternal Sunshine. I don’t think they’re as timeless as we would like them to be. Juno is especially dated, kind of a pre-hipster look at life. I think we’re in for a long run of weak comedy thanks to the public demand for cheap laughs.

      • I liked Juno and Eternal Sunshine 😦

      • I also liked them, but I’m not sure I’d classify wither of them as timeless.

  4. […] see enough 2012 films to have any of them” Charles Khosla: John Carter, Red Tails, A Thousand Words, The Three Stooges, Wrath of the Titans Fernando Rafael Quintero Castañeda: “I don’t […]

  5. […] Murphy’s latest film, A Thousand Words, was my least favorite film of the year.  You can see my review for my full thoughts, but let me just tell you it was one of the unfunniest films I have seen in recent years.  I like […]

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