In A Thousand Words, Eddie Murphy plays a motormouth literary agent who is such a greedy, caffeinated huckster that he seems to have turned his entire life into a form of speed-dating. After a run-in with an Indian guru, he becomes the victim of a karmic curse: A tree sprouts in his backyard, and every time he utters a word, one of its leaves falls off. (If all the leaves fall, he’ll die.) The movie, in other words, takes an Eddie Murphy who talks very, very fast (what a concept!) and turns him into an Eddie Murphy who can’t allow himself to talk at all (what an even less entertaining concept!).
In theory, A Thousand Words should draw on its star’s abilities as a physical comedian, but Murphy, miming his order for a triple latte at Starbucks, comes off like Charlie Chaplin on crystal meth; he’s strenuously unfunny to watch. The movie also makes virtually no sense: With a thousand words at his disposal, couldn’t Murphy take at least one sentence to explain what’s happening to his wife (Kerry Washington)? And why does no one even question why he has suddenly stopped talking? The only answer is that everyone in the film seems to be living in Stupid High-Concept Movieville. There’s one halfway amusing scene in which Murphy uses talking action figures (Austin Powers, the Terminator) to speak for him during a conference call, but most of A Thousand Words is profoundly tedious. It makes you want to see Murphy team up with Judd Apatow, or even take on a deadly serious dramatic role — do anything but star in another movie like this one. D-