Thousand Words, A (US - BD RA)
Jonathan watches that Eddie Murphy movie that nobody seems to like...
Fast-talking Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) says whatever it takes to close a deal. But after stretching the truth with a spiritual guru, he suddenly finds his life depending on a magical tree with 1,000 leaves... one for every word he has left. Now Jack's got to stop talking and conjure up some outrageous ways to communicate or he's a goner. (From the Paramount synopsis)
This is the first title I've received to review for DVDActive that has no positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. There's a lot of bad movies out there that show up on the aggregate site, but very few movies have the rare distinction of a 0% rating. It was filmed in 2008 and didn't see distribution until this year, which is never a good sign. Well, I've watched it now, and it certainly doesn't deserve to be among the worst movies ever made, but it is indeed a very boring movie. There are bad movies out there that are incredibly watchable. Troll 2 would be an easy example, but even more recent critical flops like Jack and Jill are still easier to sit through because they are constantly trying to entertain. A Thousand Words biggest failure isn't being aggressively bad, it's being stale.
Before watching the movie, the idea of taking Eddie Murphy's voice away from him seemed like a really poor idea. A big part of Murphy's appeal has always been his ridiculous ramblings, and to reduce him to silence would completely disarm his comedy, right? Well the filmmakers seem to be aware of this fact, cause they go out of their way to make the character Jack as obnoxious as possible in the opening scenes. I actually couldn't wait for the guy to stop talking. But my frustrations toward the unfunny character were quickly replaced with frustrations toward the screenplay. At least when Jack's voice was intact I felt something, but one he is silenced it quickly becomes a one joke movie. Here's a breakdown of the format, in case you couldn't guess: something important is happening and Jack's input is crucial, but he can't talk! So he makes funny faces until the other parties involved come up with their own conclusions. Clark Duke plays his office assistant, but he has no defined personality or set of quirks. He's just there to make some awkward jokes when the movie is in need of humor, and they fall completely flat. Desperate for more diversity, the writers have Jack be physically effected by anything that happens to the tree, and Jack forgets to tell his gardeners not to mess with the tree. So Jack gets wet and everyone thinks he is sweating, and some chemicals are sprayed on the tree that make Jack loopy during a business lunch while Afroman's 'Because I Got High' plays. That might sound awful, and it probably should be, but I actually enjoyed some of Murphy's physical comedy from the bit.
I was impressed that the movie acknowledges written word and sign language. When Jack finishes writing a word down, the tree still drops a leaf. He responds by flipping the tree off, and it drops two more. Given the lack of logic on display and how lazy the screenplay feels, it was nice to see that they came up with something. But eventually Jack invents his own forms of sign language and the tree apparently cuts him some slack. In one scene, Jack gets through a business call by using talking action figures. It might have been funny if one of them said something wildly inappropriate, but whoever wrote the scene was happy to leave the joke undeveloped. Jack's marriage is falling apart. His wife is really unhappy that he isn't communicating with her, and it takes about two conversations before she takes their child and makes like a tree. Jack doesn't use any of the hundreds of words he has left to save his marriage, or maybe water the tree in front of her and show her how he magically gets soaked by doing so. Hey, a movie needs conflict, right?
Perhaps the biggest misstep of A Thousand Words is that it tries to be life affirming and emotional in its final moments. It is contrived and cloying in the worst of ways. Suddenly daddy issues take the foreground, and there's some weird golden-hued flashback where Jack talks to himself as a kid and chases him through a field. It feels extremely out of place and the resolute feeling it aims for is completely unearned by what preceded it. After seeing the film, I looked into writer Steve Koren's IMDb page and saw that he also wrote Click; another film that made a jarring shift into dramatic territory with off-putting results. But all complaints aside, A Thousand Words really doesn't deserve to be among the worst movies of all time. It's competently directed and you can tell some production value was put into it. I would even say that Eddie Murphy did a great job with the material given to him, and the supporting cast (including Cliff Curtis and Allison Janney) does a good job too. But the screenplay and the delivery of the humor completely fail it and make it easy to call it a bad film.
The film certainly lacks quality, but the same can't be said for the 1080p transfer on this Blu-ray disc. Like many modern comedies, it possesses that warmer look. Earthy browns, yellows and greens are the predominant colors. Skin tones can look a little overcooked due to the warm filters, and colors get washed out too, but not to a terribly distracting extent. Outdoor scenes are more naturally lit and colors look very accurate in them, confirming that the golden appearance is indeed an artistic choice. Black levels are free from criticism. It was shot on 35 mm, and there's a very light layer of consistent grain over the top of the image as a result. Detail is excellent, looking about as good as any modern 35 mm film does. Aside from some very small and infrequent banding, the transfer appears to be completely free of digital artefacts.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track matches the quality with a sound mix that is unusually immersing for a comedy. I shouldn't be surprised, seeing as production quality was one of the things this movie did have going for it. Though much of movies sound sticks to the front center speaker, stereo channels open up to let the soundtrack in. Surround channels are filled with ambient noise on a consistent basis, be it the hustle and bustle of an office, cars driving and honking on the streets or the sounds of nature. The LFE channel makes a few appearance. The initial appearance of the tree is loud and effectively jarring. The movie lacks any immersing qualities, but the audio mix puts up a good fight to help it.
There are only two extras on the Blu-ray disc. The first is Deleted Scenes (HD, 12:52). The movie itself feels like a series of deleted scenes, so as you might imagine, these don't really bring anything new or funny to the table. There is more footage with Allison Janney though, who is one of the movies more redeeming factors. The other feature is an Alternate Ending (HD, 2:04) which is heavy on the irritating Clark Duke and was probably right to refrain from using. There's also an Ultraviolet digital copy voucher with the disc.
A Thousand Words isn't as awful as its critical reputation suggests, but it is still pretty bad. A capable cast, solid production quality and decent direction are not enough to save the movie from its complete void of laughs and a poorly thought out screenplay. The good news is, if you are a fan, Paramount has done a great job with the video transfer and the audio mix, though there are only a couple brief extras.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 26th June 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Portuguese, English Audio Description
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Ultraviolet Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Brian Robbins
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Cliff Curtis, Kerry Washington
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 91 minutes
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