Eddie Murphy’s Latest Critical/Box-Office Bomb: A THOUSAND WORDS

Eddie Murphy A Thousand Words Cliff Curtis
Cliff Curtis, Eddie Murphy, A Thousand Words

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Eddie Murphy was to have hosted the 2012 Academy Awards ceremony, but dropped out after one of the show’s producers, Brett Ratner, was fired (or resigned) following his use of an anti-gay slur and his comments about sex with Lindsay Lohan. Of course, no one can know for sure if the box office take of the $40m-budgeted DreamWorks/Paramount release A Thousand Words would have been higher had Murphy kept his Oscar gig. But one thing is certain: it couldn’t have been any lower. Nor could its approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes: 0 percent.

Murphy, who’ll turn 51 next April 3, has had a string of box office disappointments — in some instances downright disasters — in recent years. A Thousand Words, which was actually shot in 2008, is his latest. The Brian Robbins-directed comedy co-starring Kerry Washington scored a paltry $1.92 million at 1,890 North American locations on Friday, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. It’s expected to gross between $6-$7 million for the weekend. And don’t expect the international market to come to the rescue, as Murphy’s movies perform much better in the United States than elsewhere.

Even so, no less than two Eddie Murphy movies are among the five worst super-saturated releases (3,000+ theaters) ever in North America: Meet Dave, co-starring Elizabeth Banks, and Imagine That. Meet Dave took in $5.25 million in July 2008; Imagine That earned $5.5 million in June 2009.

Additionally, the Brett Ratner-directed Tower Heist, co-starring Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, Gabourey Sidibe, and others, underperformed last year, grossing $78 million in North America and $74.8 million abroad.

Apart from the Shrek movies, Murphy’s last major domestic hit ($100m+ in 2012 dollars) was the 2007 comedy Norbit, which earned $95.67 million, or about $110m today. Murphy’s last domestic blockbuster ($200m+ in 2012 dollars) was Doctor Dolittle, which grossed $144.15 million in 1998, or about $245 million today.

Ironically, Murphy could do no wrong in the ’80s and early ’90s: his string of hits, all of them for Paramount, included his biggest box office success, Beverly Hills Cop (1984), in addition to 48 Hrs., Coming to America, Trading Places, The Golden Child, and Boomerang.

But from the mid-’90s on, his box office chart has consisted of a mix of major hits (Doctor Dolittle, The Nutty Professor), solid performers (Dreamgirls, Norbit), disappointments (Showtime, I Spy, Bowfinger, Life), and major bombs (Holy Man, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Imagine That, Meet Dave, A Thousand Words).

Eddie Murphy / Cliff Curtis / A Thousand Words photo: Bruce McBroom / DW Studios.

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