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DVD Review: A Thousand Words

June 26, 2012

A Thousand Words – A Paramount Pictures’ Release

DVD Release Date: June 26th, 2012

Rated PG for language and mature themes

Running time: 91 minutes

Brian Robbins (dir.)

Steve Koren (writer)

John Debney (music)

Eddie Murphy as Jack McCall

Kerry Washington as Caroline McCall

Clark Duke as Aaron Wiseberger

Cliff Curtis as Dr. Sinja

Our reviews below:


A Thousand Words DVD Review By John C.

** (out of 4)

After trying to swindle self help guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) into signing a deal, a mysterious tree pops up in the yard of fast talking literary agent Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy).  Every time he says a word, the tree will lose a leaf, and once there are only branches both of them will die.  With help of his assistant (Clark Duke), Jack tries desperately to save his failing marriage to his wife (Kerry Washington) and start living his life to the fullest by think before he talks.

There are a couple of admittedly amusing moments from Eddie Murphy and Clark Duke, and the central message is a good one.  But A Thousand Words feels uneven and misjudged, both in tone and what audience it is intended for.  Some of the humour seems geared towards younger members of the audience, but the constant language and sexual content is more mature.  What we ultimately get is a very mediocre comedy, that is unfortunately too misguided to live up to the potential of the intriguing premise and entertaining actors.

The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and an alternate ending.


A Thousand Words DVD Review By Erin V.  

** (out of 4)

Take this premise – a literary agent who talks his way through every deal, relationship, and day, tries to close a deal with guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) to publish his book, and instead gets a magical tree in his backyard that loses a leaf for every word he speaks.  So unless he wants the possibility of all of the leaves falling off, which may or may not lead to his death, he has to shut up.

Eddie Murphy plays said literary agent Jack McCall.  The problem is, Murphy is often funniest when he is talking, so making him into a miming mute is not the best choice.  There are some funny lines and moments, but not enough.  And the plot is full of holes, such as why not just write down a description of why he can’t talk once and just show the card again and again rather than have to mime all the time?

The premise itself could be seen either way – as just plain stupid, or really good.  It’s the kind of thing that maybe could have been executed into a good movie.  But it isn’t.  A Thousand Words ends up a mess of a film that is at worst annoying, and at best mildly amusing.  Maybe if it’s on TV, or you’re looking for something pretty mindless to rent, you might check it out – but other than that, it’s not worth searching after.


A Thousand Words DVD Review By Nicole

** (out of 4)

Sometimes a brilliant premise just isn’t brought up to its potential.  A Thousand Words follows the narcissistic Jack (Eddie Murphy), who, after meeting a guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) develops a mysterious connection to a Bodhi tree that magically appears like Jack’s beanstalk.  Everything the tree feels, Jack feels, and every word he says causes another leaf to fall from the magic ficus.  So Jack tries not to talk, in fear that words could cause the tree and therefore himself to die.  Trouble is, he doesn’t use his few words wisely.  His wife (Kerry Washington) thinks he doesn’t care about her or the baby.  He is also rude to his young assistant Aaron (Clark Duke) who, after Jack is mostly mute, becomes very smart alecky.  The only person Jack is kind to is his mother (Ruby Dee), who has Alzheimer’s and thinks he is his dad.

A Thousand Words could have been amazing.  There are some funny moments when Jack tries to communicate through gestures and talking novelty toys.  There are also a few touching moments, mainly with his mother, in flashbacks and towards the end of the film.  The song written by John Debney and Mervyn Warren that plays through the end credits is quite nice.  But what I am trying to figure out is who the film is for.  It feels like a kids movie, but deserves its PG-13 rating.  I think it should have either been made for kids or, better yet, been made more serious and explored the premise.  Although A Thousand Words does have a nice family message and may be enjoyed by the twelve and up market.


A Thousand Words DVD Review By Maureen

** (out of 4)

Actor Eddie Murphy is at his best when rapidly delivering his lines.  That’s why it just seems off in A Thousand Words when is voice is silenced.  Murphy plays Jack McCall, a Los Angeles literary agent who talks non-stop and is good at closing deals.  Through his work, Jack meets Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) a new age guru whose latest book is waiting to be published.  After meeting Dr. Sinja, a mysterious Bodhi tree appears in Jack’s yard.  The tree loses a leaf for every word Jack says or writes.  When all the leaves fall, the tree dies and so will Jack.  So he has to learn to communicate through facial expressions and gestures.

The new limitations on Jack’s communication cause problems with his assistant Aarton (Clark Duke), lead to the breakdown of his marriage to Caroline (Kerry Washington) and confuse his mother (Ruby Dee) who has Alzheimer’s.  The last act of the movie has some sweet moments as he learns to communicate differently, especially with his mother.

The problem with A Thousand Words is that it meanders through much of it not sure whether to play as a comedy or drama.  The basic premise of the plot is an interesting one, though the movie itself just didn’t keep me all that interested.  Eddie Murphy is interesting to watch and he’s the one reason to recommend checking out A Thousand Words just once.


A Thousand Words DVD Review By Tony

*1/2 (out of 4)

A Thousand Words is all that is left to Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy). At the beginning of the film we meet Jack as a glib publishing agent who impresses his boss (Allison Janney) and inspires his intern Aaron (Clark Duke). He is less than sincere pitching a book sight unseen by the popular guru Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis) and is punished by a Bodhi (enlightenment) tree that pops up in his yard and starts shedding leaves–one for each word he utters (or writes), leaving him with about 1000 words until the tree, and presumably Jack, may perish. Subsequent attempts to communicate by charades lead to embarrassing situations that threaten his job, marriage to Caroline (Kerry Washington) and friendships.

Actually filmed in 2008, A Thousand Words apparently is part of the slump from which Eddie Murphy tried to emerge with the later Tower Heist released before this film. Murphy is much better with often inappropriate but always funny patter than physical comedy, so taking his voice away is almost as cruel for us as for his character. Aside from a silly premise and script that don’t really work, the struggles Jack has communicating are more often exasperating than funny, making even the 91 minute running time seem long.


Consensus: Filmed in 2008 and only being released now, A Thousand Words has a few amusing moments courtesy of Eddie Murphy, but is unfortunately too uneven to truly live up to his talents as an actor or the intriguing premise of the film.  ** (Out of 4)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 2, 2012 11:36 am

    Great reviews…well, really, not great, but you know what I mean! Well written, to the point. I would imagine that silencing Murphy would be a bad move. His career truly does seem to be going way downhill.


    • July 2, 2012 12:06 pm

      Glad you liked the reviews! Eddie Murphy is much better in Tower Heist, which could be seen as kind of a comeback considering that A Thousand Words was filmed back in 2008.

      -John C.


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