I was going to write a film review that would conclude right at the one thousandth word. I was. But then, something happened...I realized I'd have to put effort into describing this damn film. I figured it'd be funny to intentionally fall short and fill the review with nonsensical ramblings, but the film itself sucked the life out of me by doing the same thing I was going for. So, no, this review isn't a thousand words long, and since our review system won't exactly publish a three word review (in reference to a pile of something...), here goes nothing...
Numbers don't lie. 'A Thousand Words,' the recipient of the prestigious zero percent rating at Rotten Tomatoes, was made in 2008, for release in 2009. Supposedly, and that's a key word, it was held up due to the split between DreamWorks and Paramount (quite possibly as communal property neither side wanted to claim). This delay had nothing to do with the film's qualities whatsoever, that'd be just crazy, right? After reshoots years after filming wrapped (danger!), the film bounced around release dates before finally settling in to lose all the money it could. Sorry, recoup all the investment it could. Sorry, to "entertain the audience."
It did none of the above.
Notorious motormouth Eddie Murphy plays ad man Jack McCall, who snakes his way into a deal with the latest self help guru Sinja (Cliff Curtis), but his manipulative ways put him on the path for a spiritual reawakening. Or death. Whatever happens first. A tree sprouts in McCall's yard, and with every word he speaks or writes, a leaf falls. The idea is that with no leaves, the tree dies, and so too will McCall. Now a man who uses his words as his weapon and way of life has to shut his mouth, leaving his job and his marriage in grave danger, as he never had to rely on anything his mouth didn't promise.
I feel as though this review needs at least one compliment, so here goes: as bad as 'A Thousand Words' may be, it's still a mile or two ahead of the torment that is 'Norbit.' Now, you may count that as a backhanded compliment, but it counts. You know what doesn't count? About two to three thousand words spoken in this film. See, McCall gets the tree, it starts shedding, and it isn't until it's down to "about" a thousand leaves that suddenly we're on the countdown. I suppose '3277 Words' wouldn't sell as well as a simpler title, but it's still a downfall worthy of comment.
You know what happens to things on shelves? They age, and age badly. Any pop culture reference in this flick bombs miserably. We're never sure when the flick takes place. We know that the "Oprah" culture is largely at play, as our guru character is very much like those other bull$#!& spiritual movement leaders, yet that's our only real clue. Whether it's 2009 or 2012, the premise that Sinja wrote a 5 page book isn't a bad thing, seeing as there's this thing called apps, or texting...
With words at a "limit," we're left with physical comedy, and boy is it limp. Murphy needs words to be effective. His mouth is what he's known for. But no, we have a mostly quiet Murphy, who, when speaking, isn't all that profane. See, the Eddie Murphy most of us know is the one who'd argue with the tree the entire time, making this a short flick. That Murphy would scream "FFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" as his dying word, five minutes in, and we'd have ourselves a fun little pre-film comedy feature. Never mind that, instead we get a neutered, not-quite family friendly but still definitely tame Murphy who is about as edgy as a beach ball.
The supporting cast also stinks. Ignore cameos from that painfully unfunny '30 Rock' guy or John Witherspoon as the gimmicks they are, and leave Kerry Washington and Ruby Dee out of it, as they seem like the only real people in a flick full of caricatures. What we're left with is Clark Duke ('Hot Tube Time Machine') playing the most soulless, unlikable douche assistant in history, and Allison Janney as McCall's boss. Are they funny or interesting? Does a colonoscopy via weed whacker seem like a fun way to spend an afternoon?
The message of the flick? We learn nothing about the value of words, nor the power of emotion and the fact that words need not be spoken to have a meaning. There's something hidden in there about the feelings of plants, which is some green hipster $#!&, and we learn that self help gurus are really only out to make you think you're dying so as to scare you into their fold. Yeah, that really does sound like something I want to spend ten to twenty bucks to watch. The ideas found here would have been funny...back when they were relevant, as the ripping on 'Oprah' culture nowadays seems somewhat moot and passe.
If you're a brave soul intending to sit down to this flick, before you do, make a list of things you'd do, honestly, if put in the same situation, and also consider those steps of death (denial, anger, acceptance, so on) as you ponder your final days. Chances are, you'll have a list very similar to the actions found in the film. Why is that? Because even a trained monkey could write this film. It's almost as if it were made as some kind of dare, as writer Steve Koren (whose credits, such as 'Jack and Jill' and 'Superstar,' speak for themselves...) shows his contempt for the world in a way that would make Jigsaw both pleased and disgusted at the same time.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Paramount rushes 'A Thousand Words' onto home video, just three months after its theatrical bombing/debut on a BD50 disc. There is a worthwhile promotion not marked on the package in concerns to the UltraViolet Digital Copy included with this release, which will be detailed in the supplements portion of this review.
Paramount's 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer for 'A Thousand Words' is worth a thousand bucks. Not a million, though. I have to admit, the detail levels can be outright astonishing at times, with insanely lifelike facial features and superb textures that really put you right there in the...crappy movie. The grain level is constant and 100% intact, and doesn't impede detail levels in the slightest. Picture depth? I'd like to compare it to the 2D versions of most native 3D films, and that's one hell of a compliment. Noise and artifacts are nowhere to be found. There are a few minor hang ups, though. First, some minor edge enhancement does draw the eye in a number of scenes. Second, there are times when a shirt can be glowing neon or scorching white, which can be annoying, as it draws you out of the flick. Lastly, and this is one hell of a nitpick, but in the final scene, a chair behind one of the characters has some serious aliasing issues around its frame. Take away the edge garbage and this would be a demo disc.
The audio on 'A Thousand Words' is no slouch, either. Presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the track regularly sounds like any big budget comedy should. The soundtrack is fantastically warm and spread gingerly through the surround channels. Dialogue is always clear, crisp, and discernible, and dynamics are pitch perfect, from hollow rooms to busy crowds, every setting effects every word just the way you'd expect it to in real life. Rear channels don't get a ton of activity, but there is some light localization and plenty of music hitting the speakers to keep you engaged, though for a while in the middle of the flick, the sparseness does draw your attention. This isn't a track that has all sorts of power and amazingly nimble pinpoint accuracy, but it shines with its simplicity.
An UltraViolet Digital Copy slip is included in the package. Because nothing quite says "mug me" like bad taste.
'A Thousand Words' got shelved for a reason. It should have been flushed. This "comedy" isn't funny. This "drama" isn't touching, moving, or dramatic. This Eddie Murphy vehicle crashes into a wall and sets numerous buildings ablaze in the process. This disc could be the greatest Blu-ray ever made, and it would still not earn a recommendation of any kind. It truly is that bad. Rent it if you must, but don't say you weren't warned.