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Paramount Studios presents
"Gimme the crowbar. I got some killin' to do."
DVD ReviewAt some point, one wonders if the Screen Actors Guild isn't going to take action against Eddie Murphy for playing all of the characters in his movies. It has to be putting people out of work. Once again, Murphy puts on a Rick Baker fatsuit, this time romancing himself and continuing to demonstrate his knack for creating memorable characters who feel real despite their almost cartoonish strangeness.
eNorbit Rice (Murphy), an orphan raised at the Golden Wonton Chinese Restaurant and Orphanage by cranky old Mr. Wong (Murphy), and married to the grotesquely obese and increasingly vicious Rasputia Latimore (Murphy again). But everything changes when his childhood sweetheart Kate (Thandie Newton, mainly because Murphy couldn't fit into those dresses) returns to town. After he finds Rasputia cheating with her Power Tap instructor Buster Perkins (Marlon Wayans), Norbit starts to fall for Kate again. But she's due to be married to dashing Deion Hughes (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who means to take her money and use her dreams of operating the Golden Wonton herself to turn it into a strip joint with the help of Rasputia's thuggish brothers. When Rasputia finds out about Norbit's interest in Kate, there will be hell to pay.
Given the situation, Murphy finds innumerable fat jokes irresistible, and they're generally pretty predictable. One example is the sequence in which Norbit is unable to lift Rasputia over the threshold, as well as the dangerous physics of their sex life. The centerpiece of the movie, Rasputia going down a water slide, falls flat despite its well-intentioned attempts to generate a Tex Avery kind of extremism. Nonetheless, the movie manages to be flat-out-funny more often than it really should, thanks to Murphy's skill at characterization. Rasputia's shrewish personality is wonderfully realized as she thinks of herself as a sex symbol while not understanding why it's more and more difficult to wedge herself behind the wheel of her car. Th endlessly dweebish Norbit is himself alternately charming and annoying in his inability to get himself to take action. But the most hilarious of the characters is Wong, the foul-mouthed, racist old man who steals the show whenever he's on screen.
The surrounding cast is quite good. While Newton is painfully anorexic, that fact makes for a good contast with Rasputia that increases the humor of their hostile interactions. She has a sweet earnestness that makes her a good match for Norbit despite her appalling appearance. Gooding is wonderful as the sleazy Deion, making up for his lines all being cut from his earlier appearance in the Murphy vehicle Coming to America. He's both so charming that it's easy to see why Kate would be interested but so delightfully fraudulent that one can't help being amused at him. Wayans is way over the top as the lisping Buster, willing to seduce Rasputia in order to get his exercise video for Power Tap put on video. Although his character feels tacked onto the main story, the infidelity of Rasputia is critical to set up Norbit as being justified in looking for romance with Kate (well, that and the fact Rasputia intentionally runs over his dog, Lloyd). Eddie Griffin has some wild lines as former pimp turned ribs baron Pope Sweet Jesus and he makes the most of them.
The humor is raunchy, silly and occasionally physical (such as Norbit's mishaps learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels). As one would expect in a Murphy movie, language is raunchy and frequently foul. Since Norbit has a decent heart at its core, though, much can be forgiven. There's plenty of laughter to be had once you get past the more obvious gags. One does wonder about the failed catchphrase attempt given to Rasputia, "How you doin'?", which doesn't generate a single laugh.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: The MPEG4/AVC presentation has the same qualities as many of Paramount's HD offerings: vivid color and crisp detail on closeups, but a somewhat soft picture on medium and long shots. There's no sign of edge enhancement, though, trusting the HD picture to take care of itself. Textures (most notably the disgusting quality of the fat suit) come across beautifully, and many sequences (such as Kate, Deion and Norbit's lunch in an Italian restaurant) pop right off the screen. In one shot, as Norbit gets his mail, the picture is so astoundingly clear that the fine print in the address on the envelopes is utterly crisp and easily readable. It's quite acceptable, though it could be a little better.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The audio tracks in DD+ are all clean and without any noticeable hiss or noise. Dialogue is pretty center-oriented, with the soundtrack spereading through the other speakers with reasonably good separation. Bass and LFE aren't overpowering, but there's good range throughout.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
14 Deleted Scenes
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsOnce you get past the obligatory fat jokes, Norbit generates plenty of comedy, and Murphy offers another multi-character tour de force. The transfer is attractive, though the extras are fairly pedestrian.
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