When I got home from seeing Norbit, Big Momma’s House 2 and Diary of a Mad Black Woman were airing back to back on the premium cable channel Showtime. Was it an odd coincidence? Maybe, but it was one that reminded me just how unfunny a black man in a fat woman suit has always been.
Eddie Murphy has the good fortune of being able to claim that he is more an originator than an impersonator when it comes to dressing like a fat woman. Remember The Nutty Professor? Well, Norbit is a return to that gross, uncharming comedy I didn’t like in 1996 and like even less without the moral pretense.
You can certainly tell the "judge people for what they are on the inside" hook is gone from this movie. In Norbit, the mammoth Rasputia (Eddie Murphy) is a bad, bad person, inside and out. She’s a monstrous, domineering character who, as a teenager, takes a liking to Norbit, Murphy’s version of Steve Urkel, and doesn’t let him go.
Norbit, who was once an orphan, finally has a family with Rasputia and her equally oppressive brothers. Still, he can’t forget the young love he shared with Kate (Thandie Newton) at Mr. Wong’s orphanage/Chinese restaurant. He doesn’t much mind his abusive relationship until Kate comes back to town to buy the orphanage. Her return brings back emotions he hasn’t felt in years. Despite the problem of his marriage to Rasputia and Kate’s pending nuptials, Norbit sets out to finally get what he wants.
You could say the moral of the story is the only way to get what you want is to fight for it. You could also say that moral is as paper-thin as the plot and the comedy. It’s ironic considering the main antagonist is a 400-pound gorilla of a woman, but when the recycled fat jokes are the only things that are funny, you know it’s true.