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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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Robert Bellarmine: When Robert Bellarmine was ordained in 1570, the study of Church history and the fathers of the Church was in a sad state of neglect. A promising scholar from his youth in Tuscany, he devoted his energy to these two subjects, as well as to Scripture, in order to systematize Church doctrine against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers. He was the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain. 
<p>His most famous work is his three-volume <i>Disputations on the Controversies </i><em>of the Christian Faith</em>. Particularly noteworthy are the sections on the temporal power of the pope and the role of the laity. He incurred the anger of monarchists in England and France by showing the divine-right-of-kings theory untenable. He developed the theory of the indirect power of the pope in temporal affairs; although he was defending the pope against the Scottish philosopher Barclay, he also incurred the ire of Pope Sixtus V. </p><p>Bellarmine was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that "he had not his equal for learning." While he occupied apartments in the Vatican, Bellarmine relaxed none of his former austerities. He limited his household expenses to what was barely essential, eating only the food available to the poor. He was known to have ransomed a soldier who had deserted from the army and he used the hangings of his rooms to clothe poor people, remarking, "The walls won't catch cold." </p><p>Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church. </p><p>The last major controversy of Bellarmine's life came in 1616 when he had to admonish his friend Galileo, whom he admired. Bellarmine delivered the admonition on behalf of the Holy Office, which had decided that the heliocentric theory of Copernicus (the sun as stationary) was contrary to Scripture. The admonition amounted to a caution against putting forward—other than as a hypothesis—theories not yet fully proved. This shows that saints are not infallible. </p><p>Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

 
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