Oh, Eddie Murphy, what is going through your mind? After a fantastic performance in Dreamgirls, probably one of the best of his career, Murphy (Dreamgirls, Shrek 2) returns to the very bottom of the barrel with Norbit, a movie that has no good reason for its existence. Everybody knows that Murphy can play multiple characters, but nobody was asking for another movie after The Nutty Professor II. And as odd as this sentence sounds - there are simply too many movies where African-American actors dress up as obese women. It's like some bizarre contest between Murphy, Martin Lawrence, and Tyler Perry.

Murphy plays three characters here. The first is Norbit, the title character. Norbit is a shy nerd with a nasally voice. He was dropped off at an orphanage when he was an infant. The second character is Norbit's wife Rasputia, a corpulent, narcissistic, bigoted woman. The third, and probably most offensive (which is saying a lot) is Mr. Wong, the man who runs the orphanage that Norbit grew up in. Norbit is in a thankless marriage to Rasputia. She completely dominates him, and he stays, because he doesn't really know any better. This changes with the reappearance of Kate (Thandie Newton, The Pursuit of Happyness, Crash).

The two grew up together in the orphanage, and even had a cutesy fake wedding as children. Kate is thinking of buying Mr. Wong's orphanage, and running it herself. Her fiancee Deion Hughes (Cuba Gooding, Jr., Shadowboxer, Dirty), who is working with Rasputia's brother Big Jack (Terry Crews, Idiocracy, Click) to turn the orphanage into a strip club. Norbit doesn't know this, and is instantly attracted to Kate, who is sweet, smart, beautiful and thin. The thin plot of the movie deals with Norbit's choosing between the two women and the strip club as a subplot. But director Brian Robbins (The Shaggy Dog, The Perfect Score) devotes most of this time to lowbrow humor and Rasputia's weight. And leaves out anything remotely funny.

Fat jokes are cheap shots. Yes, they can be funny, but when the entire movie is structured around them, it gets tiring fast. And yes, it is impressive seeing how Norbit seamlessly puts Murphy on screen with himself, and how disgustingly lifelike his Rasputia suit is, but enough is enough. All the special effects in the world cannot save a mean-spirited movie with no discernible purpose. The plot began as a story between Murphy and his brother Charlie (Paper Soldiers, Vampire in Brooklyn) and was made into a screenplay by Jay Scherick and David Ronn (Guess Who, National Security). Shame on everybody involved in this tiresome affair.

Haro Rates It: Really Bad.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated 42 minutes for crude and sexual humor, some nudity, and language.

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