Don’t call it a comeback, seriously. Months after critics were hailing Eddie Murphy feisty role in Tower Heist as his triumphant return to adult comedies on the big screen, he follows it up with A Thousand Words, a throw-away family-friendly film that will likely tank in theaters this weekend.
Following hit with a flop is a risky game in which Murphy has often played, but eventually he’s going to lose. Are Eddie Murphy’s poor choices putting his career in jeopardy?
When Tower Heist was released in November of 2011, critics were quick to hail this as Murphy’s comeback. Fans thought Murphy was returning to his Beverly Hills Cop glory days; Murphy even booked the Academy Awards based off his Tower Heist success. Though that hosting gig eventually fell through, many attractive scripts and jobs have undoubtedly come his way as of late.
And yet, the next time we see Murphy’s grinning mug on a movie screen is in a movie called A Thousand Words, a film about a fast-talking Hollywood agent who only has 1,000 words left to speak before he dies.
Yawn. Not a lot of potential there, and definitely not a fitting blockbuster follow-up. Though, in Murphy’s defense, A Thousand Words was actually filmed back in 2008, before production on Tower Heist even began. Perhaps a lingering bad choice before he came to his senses.
In fact, the movie was supposed to be released in 2009, then got caught up in studio drama amongst Dreamworks, Paramount and Viacom. Murphy’s recent success is largely responsible for the film’s release, and I’m willing to bet it would have gone straight to DVD if it weren’t for Tower Heist.
However, Murphy’s track record shows these film choices to be largely characteristic of his career. This is a man who followed up an Oscar-nominated performance in Dreamgirls with Norbit. As it turns out Norbit was directed by Brian Levine, a fellow Brooklynite, who also guided Murphy through the panned Meet Dave and now A Thousand Words. I suppose Levine and Murphy have a good relationship, but professionally their collaborations tend to fail big.
For Murphy, money is a major motivator. The actor isn’t a stranger to ‘paycheck’ films, and even he admits that doing movies just for the money is a hard temptation to resist. When asked in a Rolling Stone article if he could resist being offered a large sum to do a crappy film, he semi-joked, “It would be harder — I don’t whore myself out as easily as I used to. I don’t think about money. But I am still from Brooklyn. So in a couple of months, you’ll see me at a press conference: ‘Yes, we are doing Holy Man 2. I can’t wait — it’s a real roller coaster, about the triumph of the human spirit. Back when we were working on the first Holy, I knew we had something special’ [laughs].”
It’s all fun and games until someone pitches Norbit 2.
Jokes aside, shouldn’t Murphy have reached the point in his career where he doesn’t “whore himself out” anymore? He has enough star power and clout to do any project he wants, and his upcoming Marion Barry biopic with Spike Lee looks very promising.
But Murphy has a history of releasing crappy films, and badmouthing them after the check has cleared. For fans who want to see Murphy do what he does best, this is extremely frustrating and hard to excuse. Eventually, Murphy will have to choose between quick money and true success — and if A Thousand Words is any indication, fans are going to continue to be disappointed for the foreseeable future.
Follow Kia Miakka Natisse on Twitter at @miakka_natisse