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A Thousand Words Blu-ray Review

A Thousand Words (2012) movie poster A Thousand Words

Theatrical Release: March 9, 2012 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Brian Robbins / Writer: Steve Koren / Songs List

Cast: Eddie Murphy (Jack McCall), Kerry Washington (Caroline McCall), Cliff Curtis (Dr. Sinja), Clark Duke (Aaron Wiseberger), Ruby Dee (Annie McCall), Allison Janney (Samantha Davis), Jack McBrayer (Starbucks Barista), John Witherspoon (Blind Man), Lou Chaliba (Shrink), Alain Chabat (Christian Lιger de la Touffe), Lennie Loftin (Robert Gilmore), David Burke (Gil Reed), Eshaya Draper (Young Jack), Emanuel Ragsdale (Tyler McCall), Phil Reeves (Don Parker), Kamala Jones (Hotel Employee), Kharrison Sweeney (Rotund Man)

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It's tough to believe that anyone thought it was a good idea for Eddie Murphy and director Brian Robbins to continue collaborating after the critically drubbed 2008 flop Meet Dave. How to explain A Thousand Words then? Well, this 2012 comedy was shot all the way back in the spring of 2008, shortly before Meet Dave added to Murphy's record of modern box office futility.
At the time, Robbins and Murphy had made one movie, 2007's Norbit, and though trashed in reviews and assigned some blame for Murphy's Dreamgirls Oscar loss, it grossed close to $100 million domestically.

A Thousand Words takes Murphy a small step away from the family film genre with which he's been most associated in recent years; it is rated PG-13 and aims more for general appeal than the youth demographic. This standard star vehicle comedy casts Murphy as Jack McCall, a fast-talking, high-powered literary agent. McCall's latest conquest is one Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis, comfortable out of his element), the world's most popular nondenominational spiritual leader. McCall is determined to sign Sinja's much-anticipated print debut, although the guru sees right through the agent's insincere excitement.

Shortly after their brief meeting, a medium-sized tree sprouts up in the backyard of Jack's stylish home. It doesn't take long for him and Sinja to realize that the tree sheds a leaf with every word Jack utters. They deduce that when all one thousand or so leaves fall from the tree, the tree will die and with it, Jack. Now, Jack, a man blessed with the gift of gab, must speak sparingly to extend his life.

Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) watches calmly as Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) prepares to swing an axe at a tree to which his life has become connected.

The film stretches that one-joke premise as far as it can: having Jack deal with automated phone menus and important business meetings. It is pretty inconsistent with its rules; writing words on paper still causes leaves to fall as does an obscene gesture, but pantomimes and drawings are apparently okay. Jack also shares some kind of physical connection with the plant; squirrels climbing it tickle him, watering it makes him sweat, and fumigation gets him high.

It's all remarkably reminiscent of Robbins alumnus Tim Allen's 2010 Funny or Die spoof trailer Arbor Daze. Words even uses its scenario to make Jack a better family man. Instead of just letting him explain his bizarre plight to his wife (Kerry Washington), the movie creates a rift out of it. There's also some unresolved issue from Jack's childhood, which trickles out in nursing home visits to his dementia-addled mother (Ruby Dee).

Its moral evident from the opening minutes, Words plots a very familiar course to redemption. In the tradition of self-betterment fantasy comedies, this one falls a lot closer to Jim Carrey's work than Groundhog Day; it's hardly a surprise that Steve Koren was one of the writers of Bruce Almighty.

Jack's wife Caroline (Kerry Washington) is less than understanding to the baffling silent treatment he suddenly gives her. Assistant Aaron Wiseberger (Clarke Duke) provides updates on the descending foliage as Jack tries to break its curse.

This is only good for the occasional chuckle, many of them earned by Clark Duke as Jack's nervous assistant. When the movie tries to get serious, the results are pretty embarrassing and include a CGI butterfly.
Murphy gives a noble effort and steers clear of the really lowbrow gags of his recent duds, but the movie can't overcome Koren's half-baked concept, not with Robbins determined to stick to his saccharine, generally underwhelming formula.

A Thousand Words became another key piece of evidence in the ongoing case against Eddie Murphy vehicles. After receiving a rare 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (where was Armond White when needed?!), the film grossed a pitiful $18.5 million in theaters. At least that reception didn't take Murphy's longtime home studio Paramount Pictures by surprise; they anticipated such a lackluster performance by limiting the film's release to under 2,000 theaters, Murphy's narrowest engagement in twenty years. Speaking of Paramount, this long-shelved movie became the final product of their live-action DreamWorks Pictures distribution deal, arriving long after the partnership's previous release (Dinner for Schmucks) and over a year after Disney began handling the Spielberg studio's output.

Three months and change after its sixth place opening, A Thousand Words comes to DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

A Thousand Words Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, English DVS)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Film only: English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $40.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

In contrast to the movie's many faults, the Blu-ray's feature presentation is just about flawless. The 2.40:1 picture is clean, sharp, and vivid. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is low on surprises, but high on crisp, clear sound, delivered with weight and infrequent directionality.

Jack (Eddie Murphy) tries flossing his way out of answering his boss (Allison Janney) in this deleted scene. Aaron (Clark Duke) gets a cool makeover in this so-called alternate ending.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

A Thousand Words' light Blu-ray includes just two bonus feature listings. First up, eleven deleted scenes (12:52) offer very little of note.

There are two additional scenes featuring Jack's boss, played by Allison Janney, a few additional chances for Jack to struggle through silence, and another tree/Jack connection gag (involving a leaf blower).

The second listing is a 2-minute "alternate ending" seemingly separated from the others purely for the Blu-ray to be able to boast an exclusive supplement. This is clearly not a scene with which the movie would have closed and it doesn't really change anything, but it does let Clark Duke do something slightly different and features an additional Cliff Curtis appearance.

This package also includes a unique code for UltraViolet, the increasingly popular (with studios, anyway) technology that enables you to stream a movie to your portable devices and/or download to your computer. Digital copies seemed unnecessary to me and this is basically a less reliable variation on that which requires more effort from you. Still, if you're someone who watches movies on multiple screens, it's a welcome inclusion that does not add to the disc's list price.

Like other new Paramount films' Blu-rays, this one tries to stream some timely trailers at insertion. For the first time that I've seen, it succeeded at that goal, playing ads for The Adventures of Tintin, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and the Indiana Jones Blu-ray Collection all the way through my first go-around. The second time, it streamed a little more than half of Jeff, Who Lives at Home's trailer, before moving on, as usual. A Thousand Words' own trailer isn't included here.

The static, scored menu reformats the poster art, with the movie's title disappearing when listings are selected. The blue keepcase's lone insert supplies your UltraViolet redemption code and directions (while advertising utterly unrelated recent titles from the studio on back). The disc does not resume playback, but does enable you to add bookmarks.

Duct tape over the mouth is one way to limit Jack McCall's (Eddie Murphy) speaking.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

A Thousand Words is a tad better than it looks, but then a Brian Robbins-directed Eddie Murphy vehicle looks pretty terrible. You've probably seen too many bad recent Murphy comedies to give this a chance and you're not missing much in this conventional entry to the father redemption fantasy genre. Paramount's Blu-ray doesn't offer much, but the feature presentation's quality is the best you could ask for.

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Related Reviews:
Eddie Murphy: Norbit • Trading Places • The Haunted Mansion • Dreamgirls • Shrek the Third • Mulan
Kerry Washington: Fantastic Four • For Colored Girls | Clark Duke: Hot Tub Time Machine • Greek: Chapter Four
Cliff Curtis: Sunshine • Push
Directed by Brian Robbins: The Shaggy Dog • Varsity Blues | Written by Steve Koren: Jack and Jill • A Night at the Roxbury
Mr. Popper's Penguins • Scrooged • Evan Almighty • The Santa Clause • Night at the Museum • Paul Blart: Mall Cop • The Love Guru
New: Jeff, Who Lives at Home • Tosh.0: Hoodies • Radio Rebel • Spider-Man

A Thousand Words Songs List: Sly & the Family Stone - "You Can Make It If You Try", Starlite Singers - "Lollipop", "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'", Mariachi Monumental de America - "Viva Tijuana", Robin Thicke - "Lost Without U", Eddie Murphy - "I Want My Baby Back", Charles Wright - "Express Yourself", "The Wheels on the Bus", James Brown - "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing", Priva Jay - "So Addicted", Keith Sweat - "Just Wanna Sex You", Lizz Wright - "I Idolize You", Afroman - "Because I Got High", Stevie Wonder - "Higher Ground", Megan Jacobs - "Still Alive", Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - "Bad Luck", Jon McLaughlin - "We All Need Saving", Raheem DeVaughn - "Butterflies", Mary, Mary - "Out Loud"

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Reviewed June 20, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 DreamWorks Pictures, Work After Midnight Films, Saturn Films, and Paramount Home Entertainment.
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