Norbit

Cast:
Eddie Murphy as Norbit/Rasputia/Mr. Wong
Thandie Newton as Kate
Terry Crews as Big Jack
Clifton Powell as Earl
Mighty Rasta as Blue
Cuba Gooding Jr. as Deion Hughes
Eddie Griffin as Pope Sweet Jesus
Katt Williams as Lord Have Mercy
Floyd Levine as Abe the Tailor
Anthony Russell as Giovanni
Pat Crawford Brown as Mrs. Henderson
Jeanette Miller as Mrs. Coleman
Michael Colyar as Morris the Barber
Marlon Wayans as Buster
Alexis Rhee as Mrs. Ling Ling Wong

Summary:
Eddie Murphy and Rick Baker alone make “Norbit” worth checking out. Fortunately that’s enough to overcome the other problems in the film.

Story:
Norbit has had a rough life. He was abandoned as a baby, picked on by other kids, and raised at an orphanage / Chinese restaurant. However, he did have one friend – Kate. The two were inseparable as children, at least until Kate was adopted and moved away. Now without his close friend, Norbit was picked on more than ever.

But when Rasputia enters his life, things change. The domineering Rasputia forces him to become her boyfriend and ensures that he’s not picked on. She also integrates Norbit into her family of brutish brothers. Eventually Norbit is forced to marry Rasputia. The unhappy Norbit over time comes to see Rasputia for what she really is – rude, disgusting, abusive, and adulterous. But he’s stuck in his relationship with her.

One ray of hope does eventually shine through – Kate returns to town to take over the orphanage. The two rekindle their friendship and Norbit realizes that she’s his true love. There are just the little complications like Kate’s scheming fiancée, Rasputia, and her three brothers that he must overcome first.

“Norbit” is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some nudity and language.

What Worked:
If you like seeing Eddie Murphy play multiple roles in a film, you should enjoy “Norbit.” Murphy again displays his impressive acting skills in bringing to life three dramatically different characters – a nerdy black man, a large and angry black woman, and a racist elderly Asian man. You quickly forget that all three of them are the same guy and really start thinking of them as three separate people. It’s an impressive feat by Murphy, which he’s also done successfully in the “Nutty Professor” movies and “Coming to America.” A lot of that success is also attributable to Rick Baker’s impressive make-up. While Norbit himself has little more than an afro, Rasputia is a stunning example of horror make-up. Her folds of flab when wearing a bathing suit are a frightening sight to behold. The Mr. Wong make-up is also impressive as Murphy’s race and age are changed dramatically. The team of Baker and Murphy is definitely a powerful combination.

What Didn’t Work:
Unfortunately, most of the best scenes in this film were shown in the movie trailers. There’s not much to laugh at beyond those moments you’ve probably seen over and over in the commercials. They’re still funny, but they lose some impact.

The ending of the film was also quite disappointing. Most of the movie was build-up to the final inevitable confrontation between Norbit, Rasputia, and her brothers. Rather than having a great comedic moment, Murphy resorted to a fight scene that would make Benny Hill proud. Characters fly through the air, run in fast forward, and do other stupid things. It was like they couldn’t think of any better conclusion to the film.

I also think it would have been nice to make Rasputia have one or two redeeming qualities. She would have been a lot more interesting character. Instead she’s a one-note villainess that is only capable of abusing Norbit and little more. Her antics start getting old by the end. At least as a child, when she was defending Norbit, she was a little more lovable. (And I have to add that I feel sorry for all the young actresses that played young Rasputia in the film. They were essentially made fun of for being fat.)

I think I’m starting to understand why Murphy plays so many characters in the movie – the rest of the supporting cast is pretty weak. As pretty as Thandie Newton is, she’s completely overshadowed by Murphy. Cuba Gooding Jr. tries his best to be funny in the film but ends up being over the top. The same goes for Eddie Griffin as the resident pimp of this idyllic small town. (Come to think of it, this perfect little studio backlot town has a large number of thugs, pimps, and whores considering how nice it looks.)

Finally, this movie got me thinking about the double standards in Hollywood. When Eddie Murphy dresses as an Asian man and starts making race jokes, it’s considered comedy. If an Asian man dressed as a black man and started making jokes about African Americans, it would be called racism and you’d see Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton marching in the streets and demanding the severed head of the actor on a pike. People need to lighten up. In any case, expect protests over this movie from fat people, Chinese Americans, and anyone else offended by Murphy’s performance.

The Bottom Line:
“Norbit” is worth checking out just to see Eddie Murphy do his thing. And fortunately that’s enough to make it relatively easy to overlook all the other big problems with the film.

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