In 2008, Eddie Murphy filmed a movie called A Thousand Words, where his character isn’t able to speak because of a magical tree. Four years later, this movie has been released into theaters. As a service to you, dear reader, I went to a movie theater on Friday to watch A Thousand Words (it wasn’t screened for critics). Here is an answer to every question that you could possibly have about Murphy’s latest comedy.
Q: How many other people were in the theater with you while watching A Thousand Words at 1 p.m. on a Friday in New York City?
Q: What four words that appeared on screen at the beginning of A Thousand Words made you dread this movie even more than you were dreading it?
A: “Produced by Nicolas Cage.”
Q: What was the best part of A Thousand Words?
A: The trailer for Rock of Ages.
Q: What is the concept of A Thousand Words?
A: Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) is a successful and ambitious literary agent who we’re supposed to believe neglects his family, but actually seems more well adjusted than a normal human being. Then a tree shows up.
Q: How does the movie establish that Jack is a bad person?
A: Because, when the movie opens, Jack makes his assistant purchase six-dozen pairs of cashmere socks for him, and then brags that he doesn’t actually need those socks. Oh, the horror! Only a monster would force an assistant to make a sock purchase. And, later, Jack and his wife are in an argument about moving to a more child-friendly house — that’s when a fully-grown tree magically bursts through the ground.
Q: Who sent this tree to Jack?
A: Jack meets with a self-help guru, Dr. Sinja, in an attempt to sign Sinja to a book deal. During the meeting, Jack comes off as disingenuous and his first generation iPhone will not stop ringing. Sinja never claims credit for the tree, but it appears shortly after their meeting. Also: None of this matters because you will never see this movie.
Q: If Jack is so successful, why is he still using a first generation iPhone?
A: Because this movie was filmed in 2008.
Q: Wait, isn’t Jack at all curious how a fully-grown tree appears in his back yard?
Q: Well, regardless, that’s a nice gift, right?
A: The tree is cursed. As it turns out, one leaf will fall off of the tree for every one word that Jack speaks. We are told that once the leaves are gone, both Jack and the tree will die.
Q: Does that actually turn out to be true?
A: (Spoiler alert) [Editor's note: Ha!] Nope, not at all.
Q: So as long as the tree is alive, Jack stays alive? Wouldn’t a better title for this movie have been “The Tree of Life”?
A: I’m fairly sure that title has been taken.
Q: Is the self-help guru played by Mike Myers?
A: No, but at one point Jack does pull the string on an Austin Powers doll that says, “Yeah, baby,” as an alternative to speaking.
Q: Right now, if Mike Myers is pulling the string on an Axl Foley doll, what would that doll say?
A: “What the hell happened to my career?”
Q: OK, so Jack can’t speak. Can he just write things down like Max von Sydow in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close?
A: Every word that Jack writes down causes a leaf to fall off of the tree.
Q: What about sign language?
A: OK, that’s tricky. When Jack mimes things out like he’s playing a game of charades, no leaves fall off of the tree. Though, at one point Jack gives the tree the middle finger and a leaf falls off. To put it mildly: the tree is very inconsistent with its leaf losing.
Q: Because of the long delay of its release, what is the most dated joke in A Thousand Words?
A: A joke about Britney Spears being crazy.
Q: What was the most dated joke in A Thousand Words that had nothing to do with the delay of its release?
A: When Eddie Murphy starts singing Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Starting Something.”
Q: Because of the long delay of its release, what is the most dated joke in A Thousand Words that is so old, it’s kind of funny again?
A: When Eddie Murphy refers to Miley Cyrus as “Hannah Montana.”
Q: So, how does Murphy use his final words?
A: Even after the guru specifically tells Jack that once the leaves fall off the tree that Jack will die, Jack keeps talking. A lot.
Q: OK, but what about once Jack accepts that the story about the tree is true?
A: That would be the most frustrating thing to a person watching this movie who cares about the story. Jack won’t say a word to help a blind man cross the street safely or explain the situation to his wife, but then he’ll go home and yell at the tree — which causes it to lose leaves.
Q: How does the tree lose most of its leaves?
A: On a night that Jack goes on a drunken rant.
Q: How is that Eddie Murphy comeback coming along?
A: Not well.
Q: Should A Thousand Words have been permanently shelved?
A: It’s really no worse than any of the other bad Eddie Murphy movies — Norbit, Meet Dave — that we’ve been exposed to over the last few years. So, the answer is “probably.”
Q: Does A Thousand Words think it’s a lot more poignant than it actually is?
A: Yes. By the end, this movie really thinks that it’s delivering some sort of message. That it’s not about the amount of words a person uses, but that a person means what he or she is saying. Or something.
Q: Based on that lesson, how do you feel about A Thousand Words?
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter