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</script></div>{/googleAds}In Norbit, Eddie Murphy once again does his thing. But it's his thing that's beginning to grow tiresome. It began as a refreshing novelty in The Nutty Professor, carried over to The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and later provided enough tacked-on mileage to launch Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry's celebrity into the mainstream of popularity with Big Momma's House and Diary of a Mad Black Woman respectively.

Of course, I'm speaking of the act of applying layer upon layer of foam latex to an actor to create new personas. Specifically, to make an actor look obese so we can all laugh at the fat jokes without feeling bad about actually laughing at a real fat person. And for the most part it always worked primarily because moral lessons about acceptance and tolerance were addressed or the comedy was limited to physical sight gags. However, that's not the case with Norbit, where the entire overtone of the film is one of mean-spiritedness and downright cruelty at the expense of those that are different.

Now I'm not suggesting we take this film seriously enough to be offended by the content. However the days where an audience is impressed simply with how latex prosthetics can change an actor into several entirely different characters, and how camera techniques can place them on the screen at the same time, are gone. That bar has been raised. We now need fresh content and a good story to go along with our physical stereotypes.

The screenplay, by Jay Scherick and David Ronn (from a story developed by Murphy and his brother, Charles) provides only the thinnest of plots, as the film is clearly intentioned as nothing more than a vehicle to put on show the multiple talents of Murphy who is the titular character, Norbit. Via the aforementioned make-up techniques, he's also Rasputia, and even Mr. Wong as well.

Norbit is a sheepish milquetoast of a man, complete with a '70s Afro, black horn-rimmed glasses, and a soft-spoken lisp that makes Truman Capote sound as firm and reassuring as Walter Cronkite. Reared in The Golden Wonton Restaurant and Orphanage by the racially insensitive Mr. Wong, Norbit is left heartbroken after the love of his life, 5 year-old Kate, is adopted out to a loving family. That is until he meets the brutishly hulking Rasputia, who rescues him from a beating at the hands of a couple of schoolyard bullies, declares him her boyfriend and drags him to the altar after high school graduation.

Although marrying Rasputia does provide him with gainful employment in the family's construction company, it has a much bigger downside - she's an abusively overbearing wife. And Norbit hasn't the backbone to stand up to her. That is until he learns that the now grown-up Kate (Thandie Newton), who returns to buy the orphanage from the retiring Mr. Wong, is being bamboozled by Rasputia and her greedy brothers. It seems they want to turn the orphanage into a strip club called the Nipplopolis. Norbit decides that the orphanage and Kate are more important to him than continuing his relationship with Rasputia.

The physical gags and situational comedy in Norbit generate an occasional chortle here and there, but fall way short of being considered funny. We've laughed at actors wearing fat suits enough already and there's nothing new here. Rather than being asked to feel sympathy for, or find some kind of guilty humor in Rasputia the character, we're supposed to laugh at how disgusting and reprehensible an obese person is. It's just too hard a pill to swallow, even if it's not meant to be taken in all earnestness. Just in case your fat joke sensitivities are in hyper-drive, it might help to point out that the obese are not the only butt of the film's boorishness, as this is an equal opportunity offender. Asians, Jews, Caucasians, African-Americans and nearly every other creed and ethnicity are lampooned with equal muscle.

Murphy's talents seem to be endless and the capabilities of visual effects are becoming more and more realistic and spectacular, but a reciprocal escalation in quality screenwriting was needed here that wasn't delivered. As it is, Norbit is just another squandered performance by an extremely talented actor.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary - Feature-length audio commentary featuring Sandler, director Frank Coraci, executive producer Tim Herilhy and writer Steve Koren.
* Featurettes -
o Making of
o Man of a Thousand Faces
o Stunt overview
o Power Tap
* Deleted Scenes -
o 14 scenes that didn't make the final cut

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging