Norbit was utter shit. There is no way around it. The movie was lathered in stereotypes and bad make-up. It also, as the story goes, cost Eddie Murphy an Oscar for his work in Dreamgirls. The accuracy of that has never been proven. It doesn’t really have to be. Murphy’s decision to follow his serious turn as James “Thunder” Early with the parts of Mr. Wong, Rasputia and the titular character in Norbit is accepted as fact. Hell, it’s legend.
Here’s the problem, nearly every year since then Oscar bloggers and film fans have searched for each race’s Norbit. This year people are lobbing that particular grenade at Eddie Redmayne for his villainous turn in Jupiter Ascending. I haven’t seen the film yet, though I will in the next 24 hours. My issue here is that the call of Norbit is entirely off-point, and I don’t need to have seen the movie to know this. Murphy’s movie was a blatant cash grab that featured casual racism and stemmed from the director of the David Arquette wrestling vehicle Ready to Rumble. He didn’t come to the bomb either; he created it, having concocted the script from the onset.
Redmayne getting involved in Jupiter Ascending is a wholly different matter. Say what you will of Andy and Lana Wachowski, but the duo are not pandering. The two have made films loved by some, (The Matrix, Bound), hated by some (Speed Racer) and love-hated by some (Cloud Atlas). What they don’t do is make unambitious pictures. Yes, Jupiter Ascending appears to be a nutso space-opera. That is not innately bad. Redmayne, an actor who hasn’t exactly been lining up to be in the latest comic adaptation, shouldn’t be heckled for taking on a bad-guy role in an action film by a directing pair that shoot the genre with panache. He may be terrible in the movie. He might be all-time terrible in the movie. We will know soon enough.
What Redmayne shouldn’t be ridiculed for is taking on a picture by a pair of auteurs who swing for the fences. I have witnessed a full-Norbit and this is not that.