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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

A Thousand Words

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Allison Janney and Eddie Murphy star in a scene from the movie "A Thousand Words."
Silence may indeed be golden. But the comedy "A Thousand Words" (DreamWorks) — which lumbers forth from an elaborate premise whereby a fast-talking literary agent must learn to hold his peace or kick the bucket — turns out to be about 90 minutes worth of barely alloyed lead.

Eddie Murphy plays slickster Jack McCall, whose career marketing manuscripts brings him into contact with nice-guy guru and author Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis). Jack's habitual insincerity, however, soon puts him on Sinja's (and, so we're meant to infer, the cosmos') bad side and he finds himself cursed.

According to the terms of the jinx, each word Jack speaks causes a leaf to fall from a tree that has magically sprouted in his backyard. Once the branches are bare, he'll die. By the time Jack figures all of that out — and the audience, though wearied, is well ahead of him on this — he has only the titular amount of vocabulary left.

Jack's sudden reticence stymies not only his career (Clark Duke plays his beleaguered office assistant Aaron) but his heretofore happy marriage to wife Caroline (Kerry Washington) as well.

There's mugging galore, but little hilarity in director Brian Robbins' barren comedy. And, when screenwriter Steve Koren's script turns serious about two-thirds of the way through, it mixes fruitful messages about marital fidelity and the importance of family life with shady New Age-style spirituality.

Thus, Jack's desperate efforts to become charitable, which see him tossing baguettes of French bread to Skid Row hobos and donating his expensive watch to fund-raising nuns, only to take it back again, gain him nothing. But reaching out to Caroline and to his Alzheimer's-afflicted mom (Ruby Dee) and resolving his long-standing emotional impasse with his deceased father, taken together, do — so to speak — the trick.

Along the way, Sinja offers some gobbledygook guidance, and Caroline dons leather to "spice up" — and save — her marriage. Though she briefly handcuffs Jack, it's the folks in the audience who may feel shackled by these flimsy proceedings.

The film contains mature content, including scenes of aberrant sensuality within marriage, a few uses of profanity, considerable crude and crass language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.





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Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). 
<p>John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. </p><p>His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). </p><p>John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic. </p><p>The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus. </p><p>Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53). John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us pray to Our Lady, that she may protect us. In times of spiritual upset, the safest place is within the folds of her garments.

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
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The one who prepared the way for the Messiah remains a witness to Christians today.

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