Norbit Parent Guide
Parent Movie Review
It’s Murphy, Murphy & Murphy in Norbit—a film where Eddie Murphy returns to his 90s’ Nutty Professor phase, by playing multiple characters.
The first time we see the comedian, he’s Mr. Wong, the proprietor of a Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of town that doubles as an orphanage. When Norbit is just a baby he is literally dumped off here (from a moving car) and left for Mr. Wong to take care of. Growing up amongst the egg rolls, Norbit becomes friends with Kate, another girl fortunate enough to be adopted. The ensuing separation is painful for the young boy, although he eventually finds Rasputia.
Blossoming into a plus-sized woman, Rasputia (Murphy’s second role—and definitely the most prominent) takes hold of Norbit’s life and convinces him to marry her. The now adult Norbit (Murphy again) is the object of not only Rasputia’s affection and abuse, but also the disdain of her three brothers: Big Jack (Terry Crews), Earl (Clifton Powell) and Blue (Lester Speight), who appear to own the only construction business in town.
Together, Rasputia and her siblings intimidate the spectacled Norbit and virtually everyone else in this community. They also have a plan to purchase the orphanage and turn it into a strip club, which will ultimately involve the grown-up Kate (Thandie Newton), when she comes back to town with her fiancee Deion (Cuba Gooding Jr.).
Ultimately this film represents possibly the grandest waste of technical talent I’ve ever seen. The makeup and special effects prowess required to have Murphy performing with himself is truly seamless. Even shadows and reflections trick your eyes into believing it can’t possibly be the same actor playing both people. Mr. Wong’s character is a further testament to what makeup artists can achieve.
Yet, the script also represents hate humor in similar grandiose form. The longer I viewed this film, the more repulsive I found the idea of being expected to laugh at the portrayals of verbal and physical abuse. Others that are ridiculed include (but are not limited to) obese people, the elderly, Orientals, Jews, and Christians (a group to which Rasputia claims to belong).
The potentially hurtful content in Norbit is weakly justified by an implausible ending of saccharine romance and revenge. While many may claim it is all “just for laughs”, at some point each of us needs to ask a question of ourselves. Considering the many movies and other media products that attempt to create humor in a similar fashion, are we laughing with or at these stereotypes?
Starring Eddie Murphy. Theatrical release February 8, 2007. Updated March 16, 2009
Rating & Content Info
Why is Norbit rated PG-13? Norbit is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for crude and sexual humor, some nudity and language. (The film was originally rated R, but was edited for re-rating.)
Like many films of this genre, Norbit contains plenty of bathroom humor and jokes about bodily functions. There is lots of near and rear nudity as well—especially Rasputia’s character (whose skin, arguably, is not real) and another man with whom Rasputia begins having a recreational sexual relationship (we see his buttocks and upper torso after Norbit discovers the two of them in bed together). Sexual sounds are also heard. In addition, the film’s characters are often mean-spirited, intimidating, and bullying. Besides Norbit, other groups speared included the elderly and animals. For instance, people are physically abused (thrown from a window on one occasion) and trampled, while a dog is also deliberately run over with a car—all for comedic effect. Moderate and mild profanities and other expletives are heard frequently, including disrespectful references to Christian deity. Social drinking is portrayed.
Page last updated March 16, 2009
Norbit Parents' Guide
Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry, and Martin Lawrence have all portrayed the obese African-American matriarch. Mel Watkins, the author of “On the Real Side: A History of African-American Comedy” justified these types of depictions in the Philadelphia Daily News by saying:
“There’s a humorous tradition about aggressive black women. It goes back to the 19th-century minstrel shows, even when the minstrel shows didn’t have black performers. They would do it in blackface ... It showed black women to be unattractive and the black man to be weak because he was controlled by his woman. It’s been part of Americana for a hundred years and will remain as such because nobody seems to be interested in getting rid of it.”
How do you feel about his observations? Do you feel this “tradition” is beneficial, just benign, or guilty of perpetuating a negative stereotype?
The most recent home video release of Norbit movie is June 4, 2007. Here are some details…
DVD Release Date: 5 June 2007
Paramount Home Entertainment presents Norbit in Blu-ray, widescreen and full screen. Audio tracks are available in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English and French), with subtitles in English and Spanish.