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A Pretty Big Mistake

Eddie Murphy made some of the funniest comedies of the 80s. The pinnacle of his reign as comedic superstar was arguably Coming To America. Murphy was astonishing in this film as he played several of the characters in this comedic gem. Since then, it’s been hit and miss (ok…mostly miss).

With Norbit, Murphy returns to playing multiple characters with some of the talent and creativity displayed in Coming To America and to a smaller extent The Nutty Professor, but not nearly enough to make it worth anyone’s time.

Norbit Albert Rice (Eddie Murphy) is an awkward, clueless, and spineless adult who was raised in an orphanage/restaurant (The Golden Wonton) by Mr. Wong (Eddie Murphy). At a young age, Norbit was smitten with Kate (China Anderson initially and later played by Thandie Newton), but Kate would ultimately be adopted and Norbit eventually found himself entangled with the mastodonic Rasputia (Lindey Sims-Lewis and later Eddie Murphy).

For reasons that are almost completely inexplicable, Norbit eventually ends up marrying the huge and heinous Rasputia and becoming a part of the Latimore Family, which is comprised of the similarly physically imposing brothers of Rasputia. Where are their parents? Who cares? This film’s got much bigger problems.

Norbit ends up working as an administrative assistant for the Latimore Construction Company while being abused in every way, shape, and form by Rasputia and her awful family. Things become complicated when the adult Kate (Thandie Newton) returns to town to purchase the orphanage and Norbit is reminded of the love he had for Kate.

Right off the bat we’re presented with a multitude of problems that are pretty glaring. While living in the orphanage wasn’t exactly idyllic, Norbit had it pretty good and Mr. Wong was seemingly positive, supportive, and loving. Thus, it’s tough to understand why Norbit is such a spineless loser.

While Murphy does a great job of portraying Norbit as a schmuck, this creates a problem as Norbit is the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for. It’s hard to root for a guy who wantonly puts himself in a bad spot time and again. You keep waiting for Norbit to man up and change from an ugly duckling into a swan, but don’t hold your breath.

Murphy also does a pretty good job in his portrayal of the horrifically nauseating Rasputia (what a wonderful name for this character). But, it’s unclear why Rasputia is such a horrible person. She seemingly has a family (albeit, a nasty one), money, and a husband (admittedly, Norbit’s a loser), so why the constant vitriol?

Norbit is allegedly a comedy, but the laughs are few and often forced. The bulk of the attempted humor in Norbit revolves around Rasputia’s enormous ass, boobs, stomach, etc. Okay…a couple fat jokes I can deal with, but this kind of humor wears out its welcome within the first 20 minutes or so. The remaining laughs revolve around Norbit’s ineptitude and general awkwardness. Norbit often seems borderline autistic. Can you really laugh at someone like this?

We won’t even get into the romance plot between the drop-dead gorgeous Kate and Norbit. Suffice it to say, it’s about as plausible as Norbit and Rasputia getting married. What you’re left with is in Norbit is a pretty mean spirited comedy rife with major plot holes and only a few feeble chuckles.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars