With an uninspired theatrical release, A Thousand Words blu-ray has been dumped to the medium with the same lack of gravitas. A Thousand Words utilizes the archetypal Faust-like supernatural contract in which the main character undergoes a drastic life-change after a series of embarrassing events. Despite the gorgeous cinematography, the film has narrative issues and a extremely campy pantomime performance by Eddie Murphy.
Jack (Eddie Murphy) is a hot-shot literary agent who is short on time and lacking social graces. He is neglecting his wife and child, rude to his assistant, and is ready to acquire anything that looks like a money maker. After acquiring Dr. Sinja’s new-age self-help book to his agency, he realizes the book is only a meager five pages long. When confronting Dr. Sinja about the book, he cuts his hand on a Boddhi tree, which later disappears from Dr. Sinja’s garden, and reappears in Jack’s backyard. For each word Jack says or writes, the tree sheds a leaf, and after all one thousand leaves have been shed, Jack’s life will end.
The film has a rather tired premise with similarities to other A-List star vehicles regarding a cosmic contract in the vein of Liar, Liar and Click. Jack is a stereotypical fast-talking, conniving, soulless jerk that channels the many portrayals of agents in film and television, as well as film history. Starting in the late-1940s and into the 1950s, Hollywood agents became an essential part of pre-production and were just as interested in boosting their own star power than their client’s.
Jack portrays the pathological ethos some agents have, and the punishment for his onslaught of selfishness is perfect. Having only a thousand words left forces Jack to not only listen more than talk, he must now find new ways of expression, and become a collaborative member of his sphere of influence. Despite Jack’s self-interest, the one person whom Jack yearns for approval from is his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s and recognizes Jack as his deceased father, Raymond.
A Thousand Words was originally produced in 2009, and due to studio mergers and splits, was delayed until early 2012. The topical jokes fail because of their time-sensitivity, but the ahistorical gags are lifeless, and Murphy’s pantomime doesn’t support the content. The film’s poor execution is a shame since there is a sincere message of listening more, speaking more concisely, and finding new ways to express yourself.
Somewhere down the production line, someone has a poor grasp of the most basic mathematic concepts. After Dr. Sinja recognizes that the Boddhi tree sheds a leaf for each of Jack’s words, he estimates that the tree has a thousand leaves, and Jack as 993 words left. Yet, earlier in the day, Jack witnesses the tree leaves falling, and he says far more than seven words before Dr. Sinja arrives. It’s a prime example of the arid content of the script, which seemed to have been phoned in.
However, there are some factors worthy of praise. The synergy between the cinematography and lighting in A Thousand Words is flawless. Gorgeous natural lighting brings out the spiritual beauty in the talent’s faces, and the artificial lighting in interior scenes are expressive and more than competent. The film’s expository one-take shot sets-up the film’s premise properly, and may only provide the one and only decent, legitimate laugh. It’s a shame that such below-the-line talent was wasted on an awful script and mindless direction.
Despite the egregious narrative and execution of the script, A Thousand Words surprisingly has a crystal clear picture that displays the film’s gorgeous cinematography. The versatile interior and exterior lighting augments the surprisingly gorgeous cinematography. Only the CGI fails to impress, but there is only a few moments where it is integral to the picture.
Along with the video quality, the film has a decent soundtrack and score. Since dialogue is not a central aspect to the film, the score amplifies some of the visual gags, but not enough to save them. The A Thousand Words blu-ray has a 5.1 soundtrack, but there aren’t any particular sounds that really make use of the medium.
The amount and quality of the supplemental features is a clear indicator of the studio and filmmakers’ confidence in the film. The only additional content in an alternative ending and a slew of deleted or extended scenes, of which, are not any better than the rest of the film’s content. That is it. Just one alternate ending and all the junk left over.
A Thousand Words was essentially dumped in the dead of the the first quarter, a time where many films with little confident are released. There is clearly a lack of confidence in this film’s potential, but the minimal amount of supplements doesn’t provide enough of a incentive to make required purchase. It is incredibly strange for a film to have such a poor narrative and direction while the cinematography and lighting shine. Regardless, A Thousand Words is a forgettable film, and apparently every one from the studio the spectators knew it.
Aaron Weiss is a film critic who primarily writes for CinemaFunk, a website dedicated to in-depth movie reviews and film criticism.