Eddie Murphy has made a slew of bad films in recent years -- Meet Dave, Imagine That, Norbit -- but fresh off the moderate success of Tower Heist, he seemed energized and ready for a comeback. Unfortunately, his latest effort, A Thousand Words, isn't the vehicle to get him there. This high-concept comedy directed by Brian Robbins (who also worked with Murphy on Meet Dave and Norbit), was originally filmed back in 2008 and was slated to be released in 2009, and while it has an interesting premise -- a slick literary agent discovers he'll die if he keeps speaking and eventually learns that every word counts -- the movie falters in the execution.
Eddie Murphy plays Jack McCall, a fast-talking Hollywood literary agent who sets his sights on a Deepak Chopra-like new-age guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) and his potential best-seller, but Sinja sees through Jack's motormouthed antics and places a curse on him to teach him a lesson in humility. After a magical bodhi tree mysteriously appears in his backyard, Jack discovers that with every word he speaks, a leaf falls from the tree. When all of the leaves fall off, both the tree and Jack will die. Now, he must find a way to communicate with other people without speaking a single word.
A Thousand Words feels similar to a number of Jim Carrey films (such as Liar Liar and Bruce Almighty) about characters who are under a spell that affects their personal relationships, only here the running joke is that the protagonist has to communicate without speaking or he dooms himself to death. As a result, Murphy relies on pantomiming, exaggerated gesturing, and wild-eyed antics to communicate with others. He does a fine job with the physical comedy, but the script by Steve Koren relies on one hackneyed comedy cliché after another, none of which particularly work.
When a movie finishes filming three years before its release date, it's never a good sign. If Eddie Murphy really is looking for a comeback, perhaps he should seek out a new team to work with, because his decision to lend his name to A Thousand Words fails to make the film any more entertaining.