"Norbit" | There he goes steppin' to the bad side again
"Norbit" is called "Norbit" presumably because "Yet Another Movie In Which Eddie Murphy Plays Multiple Characters and Wears a Fat Suit and...
Seattle Times movie critic
"Norbit" is called "Norbit" presumably because "Yet Another Movie In Which Eddie Murphy Plays Multiple Characters and Wears a Fat Suit and Wastes His Talent, Just Months After Showing Us How Good He Could Be in 'Dreamgirls' and Getting an Oscar Nomination, For Crying Out Loud" would take up too much room on a theater marquee.
It's also called "Norbit" because that's the main character's name: a nervous, nebbishy orphan (Murphy) who marries an abusive harpie named Rasputia (also Murphy, caked in latex) but falls in love with pretty Kate (Thandie Newton). Murphy also plays a third character: orphanage proprietor Mr. Wong, who's handled with great sensitivity to racial stereotypes. Not.
Directed by Brian Robbins and written by a team of writers (including Murphy), "Norbit" progresses pretty much as you might expect, with our hero eventually learning to stand up for himself and demand what he wants, in order to live happily ever after. A few tiny bits work in this would-be comedy — there's a talking dog moment (and let's face it, talking dogs are almost always funny), a spontaneous choir moment and a minor character (Terry Crews) who flexes his pecs amusingly. Otherwise it's all instantly forgettable, and you could dismiss "Norbit" as lame but harmless, except for the grim messages lurking within.
Rasputia, as created by Murphy and makeup whiz Rick Baker, is depicted as a nightmare: fat, ugly, sexually insatiable and mean as a hornet. The camera lingers on her dangling stomach, her pendulous breasts (which serve, in the car, as airbags), her sneering mouth and stained teeth. (The contrast with Newton — whose extreme thinness is emphasized by skin-tight costumes — is marked.) It's supposed to be funny, but it comes off as hateful. Not to put too much weight, so to speak, on a thoughtless cash-cow movie, but the tired idea of using overweight women (or, in this case, "women") as punch lines is no substitute for actual wit.
Technically, "Norbit" is very accomplished: the scenes that feature two Murphys are seamless, and the makeup is remarkable. (It'd be possible to watch the entire movie and not realize that the balding, elderly Mr. Wong is played by Murphy.) But it's an overfamiliar retread from Murphy (it's the Klumps, but nastier) that's ultimately depressing. The talent at play here — Murphy, Baker, Newton — could surely have combined to make something lasting and entertaining; rather, "Norbit" is as fleeting as a belch — and even less funny.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org