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A Thousand Words (2012)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/26/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/26/2012

People love to say that things get better with age. Other than wine (and I'll have to take their word for it on that), this saying is rarely true, especially in the world of entertainment. It sounds cliched, but many artists are "young and hungry" when they first start out and this drive and tenacity comes through in their work. But, as they age and gain success, that spirit seems to dissipate and their projects not only lack edge but energy. I can't tell you how many bands have fallen off of my rotation because they lost the ability to rock. The same thing happens with actors. Things get even more bittersweet when actors try to regain that old magic. This is the case with the Eddie Murphy vehicle A Thousand Words.

Murphy stars in A Thousand Words as Jack McCall, a hotshot literary agent. Jack is well-known for his ability to make a deal, even though he never reads the books he's assigned. When word gets out that popular guru Sinja (Cliff Curtis) has written a book, Jack tells his boss, Samantha (Allison Janney), that he can land the deal. Jack visits Sinja, and find the man to be frustratingly resistant, despite the wild promises which Jack makes. Sinja then sends Jack a book, but it's only five pages. As one would expect, Jack's reaction to this is volatile. Arriving at home, where he lives with his wife, Caroline (Kerry Washington) and their infant son, Jack finds a new tree in his backyard. He quickly realizes that when he says a word, the tree loses a leaf. Sinja has no explanation for this, but hypothesizes that once the tree is out of leaves, Jack will die. Now, without speaking or writing, Jack must try to make amends for all of his selfish behavior.

OK, let's get the gossip out of the way -- yes, this movie was shot in 2008 and not released until 2012. Why? Well, I'm not sure about that. We love to accuse Hollywood of being stupid, but when it comes to money, executive usually aren't. So, when a movie gets shelved, there's typically a good reason. Have some of these movies been decent in the past? Sure. But, it's usually obvious why they were kept from the public.

Is A Thousand Words that bad? Well, yes and no. In the grand scheme of things, it's not a disaster. The movie was directed by Brian Robbins who previously worked with Murphy in Norbit and Meet Dave, another movie which has an unceremonious release. Writer Steve Koren worked on Seinfeld and Saturday Night Live. The movie has an interesting premise which takes a fairly familiar premise and peppers it with some Eastern philosophy. The selling point here is that the movie features Eddie Murphy being the old-school Eddie Murphy which put him on the map in the first-place. Murphy is at his best when playing fast-talking smart-asses, and Jack McCall certainly fits the bill. Adopting shades of Axel Foley and Billy Ray Valentine, McCall is a hustler who feels that he can out-talk everyone. We also get plenty of Eddie Murphy mugging for the camera as well. Clark Duke, who stole the show on TV's Greek, plays Jack's assistant and he has some funny moments.

Murphy's (somewhat) energetic performance can't hide the film's flaws though. In case you couldn't guess from the synopsis, the movie is a shameless rip-off of Liar Liar, however instead of lying, it's the simple act of talking which Jack can't, well shouldn't, do. The movie follows nearly the same arc as that Jim Carrey vehicle where the pompous businessman gets caught up in a supernatural situation and must confront his bad behavior in order to set things right. However, within this framework, A Thousand Words makes two mistakes. The first one is that the premise is too weak. The tree literally appears in Jack's yard and Sinja denies being behind it, so we must just accept that the universe is after Jack. Secondly, the second half of the film gets way too heavy. Sure, Jack must face the consequences of his actions in order to get his comeuppance, but what he goes through is depressing. That wouldn't be such an issue if the first act weren't so buoyant and silly. The shift in tone simply doesn't work and the resolution to Jack's dilemma is a little hard to swallow.

A Thousand Words falls into the dreaded land of mediocre. I can really only recommend it to die-hard Eddie Murphy fans who want to see him hamming it up like he did in the 80s. On the other hand, I've seen far, far worse movies, and despite the reputation which this film has garnered from being on the shelf, it's only true crime is its lack of originality.

A Thousand Words contains a nice cameo by Austin Powers on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, most notably the greens in Jack's yard, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, as we can make out textures on objects, and the image is rarely soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The emergence of the tree creates some subtle subwoofer effects. We get some noticeable surround and stereo effects in crowd situations and we can easily make out distinct sounds coming from the front and rear channels.

The A Thousand Words Blu-ray Disc contains only a couple of extras. The "Alternate Ending" (2 minutes) is only slightly different from that of the finished film, but it casts Clark Duke's character is a bad light which probably turned off test audiences. The Disc contains eleven DELETED SCENES which run about 13 minutes. There are actually a few interesting moments here, including two new scenes with Allison Janney (always a good thing) and a funny moment where Jack uses stuffed animals to get his point across.

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long