A Thousand Words (film)

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A Thousand Words
A Thousand Words Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrian Robbins
Produced by
Written bySteve Koren
Music byJohn Debney
CinematographyClark Mathis
Edited byNed Bastille
Distributed byParamount Pictures[1]
Release date
  • March 9, 2012 (2012-03-09)
Running time
91 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million[2]
Box office$22 million[3]

A Thousand Words is a 2012 American comedy-drama film directed by Brian Robbins and starring Eddie Murphy. It was released in theaters on March 9, 2012, four years after it was filmed in August 2008, to largely negative reviews from critics and was a box office flop, grossing only $22 million worldwide against a $40 million budget.


Jack McCall is a literary agent who uses his "gift of gabbing" to get various book deals, and he is not afraid to stretch the truth to get them. While he is trying to get a book deal from a New Age self-help guru named Dr. Sinja, the guru sees through his deceit and agrees to the deal, only to later deliver a five-page book. That night, a Bodhi Tree magically appears in his backyard. Dr. Sinja goes to Jack's house and they both discover that for every word that Jack speaks, a leaf will fall off of the tree. When the tree runs out of leaves, the tree will perish, as will Jack. In time, he finds that even written words and gestures towards words count towards his limit; plus anything that happens to the tree will also affect Jack. When Jack tries to cut it down with an axe, an axe wound appears on him. When squirrels climb the tree, it tickles him. When a gardener tries to poison it with DDT, Jack gets high on the fumes and when the gardener tries to water the tree, Jack starts to sweat/perspire profusely.

With Jack forced to pick and choose his words, communicating with others becomes difficult and full of misunderstandings. These misunderstandings cost him two book deals, his job, and his wife Caroline. She walks out on him when she thinks his sudden silence is due to his not loving her anymore. When he tries to explain the tree to her, she doesn't believe him. Only Jack's assistant Aaron Weisberger realizes he is telling the truth, and goes to Jack's house to keep track of how many leaves remain. Jack tries to break the curse by being a better person by giving food to the homeless, and donating some of his money to charity, but that plan fails. Jack drinks a lot of alcohol in the night, causing him to sing a lot, thus making the tree lose many of its leaves. Only when Aaron confronts him and tackles him to the ground does Jack stop speaking.

With his life falling apart and the tree running out of leaves, Jack confronts Dr. Sinja and asks how to end the curse. The guru tells him to make peace in all of his relationships. With just one branch of leaves left, Jack tries to reconcile with his wife, but she remains hesitant. He visits his mother Annie, who lives in an assisted-living center and has dementia. Annie tells Jack, who she thinks is Jack's late father Raymond, that she wishes Jack would stop being angry at his father for walking out on them when he was a kid. Jack, realizing that this is the relationship that needs the most mending, goes to visit his father's grave. Jack expends the last three leaves of the tree with the words "I forgive you". With no leaves remaining, Jack suffers a heart attack in a storm and appears to die. Aaron then calls Jack on his cell phone. Jack, who is still alive, answers his phone. Aaron tells him that the tree's leaves have magically reappeared and Jack can now talk freely again.

Jack and Caroline get back together, with Jack buying the family-friendly house Caroline asked for earlier, and the tree is in their front yard. He does not get his job back (Aaron was promoted to Jack's old position), but he writes a book about his experience, called A Thousand Words, and gets Aaron to make the deal. Unfortunately for Aaron, his promotion causes him to be like Jack was, thus he gets his own smaller office Bodhi tree.



A Thousand Words was filmed in August 2008 in Los Angeles, California and was supposed to be released in 2009, but was repeatedly delayed after being caught up in the separation of DreamWorks Pictures from Paramount Pictures and Viacom.[4] During an interview for Fred: The Movie, director Brian Robbins stated that the film would be released in 2011.[5] Reshoots were done on the film early in 2011.[4]

The film was then scheduled for a January 2012 release, but after Murphy was announced as the host of the 2012 Oscar ceremony (he later stepped down),[6] the film was given a date of March 23, 2012;[7] this was later pushed to April 20, 2012,[8] before being pushed up to its eventual release date of March 9, 2012.[9]

Plans for a British release date of June 8, 2012, were cancelled due to unidentified difficulties,[10] and the film was instead released direct-to-DVD in the UK on July 16, 2012.[11]


Box office[edit]

A Thousand Words grossed $18,450,127 in North America, along with $3,594,150 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $22,044,277, against an estimated production budget of $40 million.

In the United States the film along with John Carter and Silent House and was expected to gross $5 million on its opening weekend it made 1.92 on Friday it ended up debuting at sixth with a 6.1 million on its opening weekend.

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 0% based on 57 reviews, with an average rating of 3.12/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Dated jokes (A Thousand Words was shot in 2008) and removing Eddie Murphy's voice – his greatest comedic asset – dooms this painful mess from the start."[12] The site also gave the film their "Moldy Tomato" award for the worst-reviewed film of 2012.[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 26 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[14] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.[15][16]

Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter calls the film another example of "how the talented performer’s poor choice of material continually undercuts him". Although Scheck praises Murphy's efforts he concludes "The formulaic script by Steve Koren doesn't manage to exploit the absurd premise with any discernible wit or invention, and the star is left floundering."[17] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 1.5 out of 4 and wrote: "The poster art for A Thousand Words shows Eddie Murphy with duct tape over his mouth, which as a promotional idea ranks right up there with Fred Astaire in leg irons." Ebert is also critical of the plot because it "never explains the rules".[18] Justin Chang of Variety wrote: "Alas, even Murphy's largely wordless, physically adroit performance can't redeem this tortured exercise in high-concept spiritualist hokum."[19]

Andrew Pulver of The Guardian commented, "Everyone, it seems, is united by A Thousand Words' awfulness."[20]


A Thousand Words was nominated for three Golden Raspberry Awards, but received none of them.[citation needed]

33rd Golden Raspberry Awards


  1. ^ a b "A Thousand Words (2012): Full Production Credits". NYTimes.com. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  2. ^ "Movie Projector: Few signs of life for pricey fantasy 'John Carter'". Los Angeles Times. March 8, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  3. ^ "A Thousand Words (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon.com. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Shelved Eddie Murphy Film 'A Thousand Words' Gets January 2012 Release Date". /Film. 2011-04-21. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
  5. ^ "Director Brian Robbins Exclusive Interview FRED: THE MOVIE; Plus an Update on A THOUSAND WORDS Starring Eddie Murphy". Collider.com. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  6. ^ Batty, David (November 9, 2011). "Eddie Murphy quits Oscars after homophobia row". The Guardian. London. Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  7. ^ "Paramount Realizes Oscars Are Huge Commercial For Eddie Murphy, Moves 'A Thousand Words' to March 2012". /Film. Retrieved November 12, 2011.
  8. ^ "'Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' Delays To 2013 So Jeremy Renner More Of Global Draw". Deadline Hollywood (January 9, 2012).
  9. ^ "A Thousand Words Official Site". Archived from the original on February 15, 2012. Retrieved February 7, 2012.
  10. ^ Sandwell, Ian (March 29, 2012). "A Thousand Words pulled from UK theatrical release". Screen International.
  11. ^ "A Thousand Words [DVD]".
  12. ^ "A Thousand Words (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  13. ^ "The 14th Annual Golden Tomato Awards". Rotten Tomatoes.
  14. ^ "A Thousand Words". Metacritic.
  15. ^ Finke, Nikki (11 March 2012). "$101.2M Worldwide: But 'John Carter's $30.6M Weak Domestic Weekend Lags #1 'The Lorax'; Eddie Murphy Bombs Again". Deadline. Eddie Murphy has yet another bomb in DreamWorks/Paramount’s A Thousand Words which received a ‘B-‘ CinemaScore.
  16. ^ "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  17. ^ "A Thousand Words: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter.
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 7, 2012). "A Thousand Words movie review (2012)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  19. ^ Chang, Justin (8 March 2012). "A Thousand Words". Variety.
  20. ^ Pulver, Andrew (March 12, 2012). "Eddie Murphy's A Thousand Words: is this the worst reviewed film of all time?". The Guardian. London.

External links[edit]