- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on commonsensemedia.org.

‘Norbit’

Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, some nudity and language.

Common Sense Media: Pause. For ages 13 and older.

* (out of five stars)

Running time: 102 minutes

Common Sense review: The movie’s tag line pretty much sums up “Norbit”: “Have you ever made a really big mistake?” The biggest one is the film’s premise, that Eddie Murphy is married to himself. Given his notorious ego, this is either ironic or self-serving. The fact that the wife, Rasputia, is wholly obnoxious, mean, self-indulgent and huge suggests the latter: She’s a walking, talking racist and misogynist stereotype.

Directed by Brian Robbins, the movie spends a few minutes setting up a background for nerdy, well-meaning Norbit (played by Mr. Murphy as an adult). As a child, Norbit’s parents left him at an orphanage run by Mr. Wong (also played by Mr. Murphy, and another egregious stereotype).

At age 5, Norbit’s best buddy is Kate, but when she’s adopted, they lose track of each another. He’s soon approached by a large girl named Rasputia, who beats up the children who pick on him and expects utter subservience in return. Norbit agrees to her terms, going so far as to marry her when he comes of age.

Their marriage is rendered in a few horrific montages and short scenes. Her dominance is bolstered by her big brothers — all of whom are aggressive and menacing, not to mention greedy. When Norbit discovers that Rasputia is cheating on him with her aerobics instructor (Marlon Wayans), he finds solace with Kate (Thandie Newton), who’s returned to town to take over the orphanage.

The plot matters little, except that it serves as an excuse for “Chinese” pronunciation jokes and grants screen time to a couple of extraneous pimps — Pope Sweet Jesus (Eddie Griffin) and Lord Have Mercy (Katt Williams) — who provide still more stereotypes to laugh at.

Bottom line? This is a pointless exercise in gross-out humor that will probably offend just about everyone at some point.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that children who liked Mr. Murphy’s “Nutty Professor” movies may very well want to see this one, too, despite the fact that it’s rife with raunchy humor and stereotypes. Most of this centers on the large body of Mr. Murphy’s female character, Rasputia, and jokes about her appetites for sex and food.

Rasputia is also cruel, which means that many jokes feature her physically abusing Norbit. Sexual allusions are swift, crude and frequent. Violence is cartoonish and loud (bodies fall, fly through the air, and hit each other). Language is incessant, including words that can’t be printed in a family newspaper.

Families can talk about the appeal of gross-out humor. Where do you draw the line between silly and offensive? Is it funny to see actors dress in drag or bury themselves in fat suits? Why? Rasputia is a strong, powerful woman — but she’s also cruel, self-indulgent and constantly the butt of jokes. As a consequence, what messages does the movie send about body image and gender roles?

Sexual content: Nonstop sexually themed jokes and innuendo.

Language alert: Incessant use of words you can’t print in family newspaper; jokes about not liking “black people” or “Jews”; lots of name-calling.

Violence alert: Repeated hard hits, falls, throws; father dumps swaddled baby from car; threat to kick teeth out; at fairground, children are thrown through air and land hard; Rasputia hits a pug dog with her car and breaks its legs (it appears in casts later); Rasputia frequently abuses Norbit (knocking him out at one point); harpoon-throwing; aggressive slapping; hard falls off bicycle; climactic fight features many whomps with implements.

Social-behavior alert: Abusive, mean-spirited bullies; blatant racial stereotypes; characters cheat, lie and commit adultery; plenty of gross-out jokes; beer and wine.

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