A Thousand Words is exactly as bad as you think it would be. There is no hint of redemption, no laughs to be had – only 91 minutes of sheer misery. (Side note: why do I find it oddly comforting when a movie so perfectly synchronizes with the expectations I set for it?)
Anyway, in the film, Eddie Murphy plays Jack McCall, a hotshit book agent (there are book agents?) who puts his annoyingly aggressive silver tongue to work by buying the publishing rights to a spiritual guru’s first self-help book.
After the deal is done, a medium-sized tree magically sprouts in McCall’s backyard and within minutes, McCall quickly discovers that for every word he speaks, a leaf falls from the tree. He then very quickly calculates that there are exactly 1,000 leaves left, before very quickly deducing that when the last leaf falls, he will die.
So there’s your gimmick: the loudmouth pusher is forced to live without speaking. Every single person reading this review has enjoyed at least one gimmick film in their life, so fair enough. I don’t have a problem with the gimmick; I take issue with inconsistencies within said gimmick.
To explain. Shortly after realizing the one-leaf-falling-per-word bit, McCall tests the limits of the tree by mouthing words silently and using popular hand jesters to see if that will result in loss of leaves. Lip-synching: leaves drop, the middle finger: two leaves down. So now that we’ve established that the effect of verbal communication, mouthing words and hand gestures is a loss of leaves, McCall goes out and mouths words and makes limitless hand gestures, which obviously result in the loss of zero leaves.
Furthermore, the movie contains a reoccurring shtick of whatever happens to the tree, happens to McCall. When the gardener waters the tree, McCall sweats his ass off at a lunch meeting. When the tree is sprayed with chemicals, McCall acts drunk and stoned. But later, when the tree is watered again, no sweating whatsoever.
Does it make sense? Not in the slightest. Is it consistent? Of course not. Why? Because this is a goddamn Eddie Murphy movie, where all sense of logic must be suspended in order to make it out alive.
And I don’t mean suspending logic to accept the gimmick. When I see Liar Liar, I accept the fact that Jim Carrey will not be able to physical lie for an entire day. Can that realistically happen? No. The same way Mark Ruffalo and Elijah Wood cannot erase whole memories from people’s minds. Suspending disbelief and embracing the fantasy that a fictional movie is trying to place in the “real” world is not at all difficult. But that gimmick has to stay consistent in order for the film to even remotely work.
Yes, I’m looking too much into A Thousand Words. And yes, every single word I write in this review is roughly a second of my life that I won’t get back, but it needs to be made clear exactly why these movies suck as bad as they do.
Interestingly enough, I’ve just touched on one of those reasons. There are many more to tackle here, but expanding further would be ungodly futile. F