“A Thousand Words”

Susan Granger’s review of “A Thousand Words” (Paramount Pictures)


This lame, wannabe comedy is an unmitigated disaster – on every level. Made back in 2008, it’s been sitting on the shelf since 2009, labeled as the last live-action movie that was produced by DreamWorks in conjunction with Paramount Pictures.

Fast-talking Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) is a shallow, self-absorbed Los Angeles literary agent who doesn’t particularly like to read books, leaving that chore to his beleaguered office assistant, Aaron (Clark Duke from “Hot Tub Time Machine”). Instead, Jack’s in hot pursuit of the publishing rights to a potential best-seller by Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), a revered, New Age Deepak Chopra-like enlightenment guru. He’s convinced he can package the book so it sells off the shelves, not realizing that the manuscript is only five pages long.

Meanwhile, Jack’s wife Caroline (Kerry Washington) is weary of waiting for Jack to invest in a childproof house in which to raise their young son (Emanuel Ragsdale) and check in with his Alzheimer-suffering mother (Ruby Dee). Soon after Jack signs Dr. Sinja, he leans on a Bodhi tree that has just sprouted near the pool in the backyard and every time he speaks a word, one of its leaves falls off. Explaining the obvious curse, Dr. Sinja estimates that there are about a thousand leaves on the tree and after they’re all gone, Jack’s life is over.  Written words count and a rudely raised middle finger gesture costs two leaves. On the other hand, drawing doesn’t count, nor does making animal noises and grunting.  So it’s all charades, heading for redemption.

Scripted by Steve Koren (“Jack and Jill,” “Click”) and directed by Eddie Murphy’s all-too-frequent collaborator, Brian Robbins (“Norbit,” “Meet Dave”), this ostensibly  inspirational fable about truly listening, saying meaningful things and treasuring life is fashioned like a Hallmark card. But it doesn’t work.  Theoretically, Eddie Murphy miming should be amusing, but it isn’t, even when he’s torturously trying to order a triple latte at Starbucks.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Thousand Words” is a predictable, trivial 2, smearing the spiritualist concept.