Since the passing of Nell Carter in 2003, obese African American women have had a difficult time getting a fair shake on the big screen (excepting, of course, Mo'Nique in Phat Girlz). Thankfully, thespians such as Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, and Eddie Murphy have stepped up to the (buffet) plate to portray their big boned sisters and mothers with all the respect that they deserve.
Norbit is the latest excuse for Eddie Murphy to get all dressed up as a fat lady, and as an "Oh shit, she's going to the water slide!" comedy, Norbit is an exercise in retardification. But as an "Eddie Murphy's also playing a virginal geek just like in Bowfinger" romp, it's hilarious. Which is to say that Norbit is exactly half funny.
The plot: Norbit (Murphy) is a nerd who never stood (or took) a chance—a stammering orphan with a hairlip-y whimper, he settles for marrying fatass bitchface Rasputia (also Murphy). Norbit's childhood sweetheart (Thandie Newton) pops back up with her boringly loutish fiancé (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and Norbit realizes that he still has feelings for—oh, forget it.
The point is, Big Momma—I mean Rasputia—farts, talks "sassy," deflates one of those inflatable space walk things, shows up in a bikini to the waterpark, does a strip tease—you know the drill. How (fat) America hasn't tired of these jokes yet, I don't know, but I do have to admit that I cracked up every time Rasputia's titty accidentally honked the horn every time she squeezed into her tiny car.
The movie does deliver big time on laughs when Murphy is the quivering title character, silently cursing his bitchy wife and generally hating his miserable life. Even though the character's reminiscent of Murphy's hilarious turn in Bowfinger, his Norbit is fresh and genuinely funny. Even funnier was Murphy's portrayal as an old, racist Chinese man, Mr. Wong. ("Norbit, why you marry a gorirra?")
Ultimately and unfortunately, Norbit can't decide if it wants to be an edgy comedy or an airplane movie—so in the end, it winds up being an occasionally funny movie about a guy dressed in a fatgirl suit. Where's Nell Carter when we need her?