Monday, October 12, 2015

OVP: Norbit (2007)

Film: Norbit (2007)
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Thandie Newton, Terry Crews, Clifton Powell, Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Director: Brian Robbins
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Makeup)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

When I first decided to do the OVP, I texted my brother my idea, and he thought it was awesome.  A few seconds later, a second text came, and it stated, " does this mean you're going to have to see Norbit?"  Yes, yes it did, and as 2007's films start to wind down (we'll get back to the 2014 write-ups later this week, and head straight into 2007 after that) I found that it was staring me right in the face, the film I had been dreading since the project began.  I needed to see Norbit, and so I filled up a bowl with cereal, plopped on my couch, and decided to get it over with, the film so bad that it lost Eddie Murphy his Oscar.

(Spoilers Ahead) It wasn't like I was expecting it to be good, but when I heard Murphy's poindexter-y voice, I realized it was going to be as awful as I had imagined, and honestly I don't really need a spoiler alert since no one should A) ever watch this movie and B) should see every scene coming a mile away. We find that Murphy's Norbit is first in love with Kate, a girl he met as a child at an orphanage (played as an adult by Thandie Newton), but once she leaves he ends up marrying Rasputia (also Murphy), an obese, domineering woman that feels cribbed out of a racist cartoon.  The film follows Norbit as he meets Kate again as an adult, and has to figure out a way to leave his adulterous but intimidating wife.

The film plays on almost every stereotype and cheap joke imaginable.  I literally watched for 100 minutes and didn't laugh once, but this was mostly because the film was relying on tired and offensive humor without any sort of point.  Honestly, it felt a little like those Tracy Jordan Klumps videos we'd see occasionally on 30 Rock.  The film initially just makes Rasputia bad because she's fat and seems oblivious to it, but they also throw in that she's abusive and cheating on Norbit in later scenes to cover their fat-shaming selves, but we know that that's where the bulk of the jokes lie.  Frequently throughout the film it is Rasputia who is made the "laugh at her" sort of target of ridicule, and we're rarely meant to feel for her in a real way, despite the fact that Norbit spent years disliking her not because she wasn't trying to get her to like her, but because he wasn't attracted to her, and one wonders if he had just stood up to her to begin with if this problem wouldn't have happened.

As a result, we're meant to find Rasputia essentially raping Norbit in repeated scenes funny, and that we're supposed to laugh at Murphy's horrifying Charlie Chan-style version of Mr. Wong, the manager of the orphanage who is constantly making jokes at his own expense, though since he's played by Murphy in yellow-face it's hard to find them funny.  The film is a series of unsuccessful physical comedy, and though it's hard to pin much of a larger purpose on such a misguided series of caricatures, it's worth noting that Norbit is hardly the altruistic guy we're meant to believe.  After all, he hates Rasputia initially because she's fat and loves Kate because she's thin and beautiful.  He's meant to love her more so for what's "inside," but when she's played by Thandie Newton whose attractiveness is constantly being compared to Rasputia, it's hard to see him as anything but as shallow as his wife.

The film was cited for Rick Baker's makeup, an Academy favorite (he's won seven times), but the makeup, while filled with the general over-the-top realism that Baker is famous for, isn't quite as good as you'd normally expect, and he loses mad points for the way he makes Murphy transform into an Asian character in what is clearly an offensive nod to past yellow-face performances.  The film has some realism, but you can tell in certain scenes, particularly the water park scenes, that this is a fat suit and not actual skin and so it doesn't really work the way that The Nutty Professor did for Baker a decade earlier.  It definitely wasn't worth giving this film an Oscar nomination, that's for sure.

Has anyone else suffered through Norbit?  If so, share your sorrow stories in the comments, and way in on who should have won the 2007 Oscar for Makeup.

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