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Murphy's latest plumbs the depths

Eddie Murphy’s latest film looks like it might be one to give a wide berth at the multiplex. It has suffered some of the worst reviews ever on the Rotten Tomatoes online review aggregator. In the week after its release in the USA, the film A Thousand Words was holding steady at 0% on the website, with critics queuing up to damn it. The first 40 reviews were all startlingly negative.

Andy Webster of the New York Times was among the kinder critics, writing: "In the simplicity of its premise it embodies the notion of high-concept entertainment. In its execution it demonstrates how technical efficiency can drain the life from a story.

Murphy has struggled to garner much critical acclaim in recent years for anything outside his voiceover work on the Shrek franchise. A Thousand Words is a typically whimsical fantasy in which Murphy plays a hard-nosed literary agent who has a run-in with a new age guru. He is subjected to one of those high-concept movie curses, condemning him to die when the guru's bodhi tree sheds all of its 1000 leaves – and every word Murphy utters makes another leaf fall.

The film has been hanging around for years waiting for its release, suggesting the studio realised it had a turkey on its hands. The actor isn’t entirely to blame. As Variety critic Justin Chang wrote: "Murphy's largely wordless, physically adroit performance can't redeem this tortured exercise in high-concept spiritualist hokum."

UK audiences get a chance to see the film, or avoid it, from April 6.

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