Any buzz over Eddie Murphy’s return to grown-up comedy in Tower Heist has now been buried deep under the towering heap of Brett Ratner’s foul-mouthed, shrimp-greased screw-ups. But Heist was supposed to be just Step One in Murphy’s return to our good graces: if everything went according to plan, his comeback would have been cemented by a vintage, hilarious performance at the Oscars. Of course, that dream is now dead: Ratner’s out, and Murphy has (voluntarily) followed him to the door. Whether Murphy would have actually been able to pull off the Oscars is unclear, although it certainly would have been nice to see him try. As his lengthy Rolling Stone interview (which finally went up online yesterday) makes clear, dude can still be off-the-cuff funny. (One enjoyable sample, which came in response to the statement “People used to think you shouldn’t be cremated so you can rise out of the grave when Jesus returns …”: “That doesn’t make sense, because you don’t know what you look like in that box! You’re looking pretty bad … You have to tell Jesus what your name is. ‘It’s me, Lord, Eddie!’ And Lord is like, ‘Who the fuck is this?’”)
But for those still wishing, against all odds, for the return of old Eddie, there is one last glimmer of hope. It’s called A Thousand Words, and it’s a high-concept comedy — Murphy is a fast-talking businessman who, after being cursed by a soft-spoken Indian stereotype, is allowed to say only the titular number of words before he dies — filmed back in 2008. Its release was supposed to piggyback on the Oscars hype, but now it will attempt to ride the wave of a totally different kind of publicity. Anyway, it does not look very good! Surely this will be explained away in the actual movie, but we can’t get over an obvious-seeming loophole: Why can’t Murphy’s character just tell everybody he’s gone mute due to some rare medical condition, and now has to communicate via handwritten messages?