Review in a Hurry: Eddie Murphy reteams with Nutty Professor makeup artist Rick Baker to show those whippersnappers Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry how a black comedian in a fat-lady suit gets the job done. He half-succeeds.

The Bigger Picture: Murphy stars as both Rasputia, a half-ton heifer housewife from hell, and Norbit, her henpecked hubby whom she saved from bullies at the orphanage where they grew up. Rasputia's brothers have since become the local shakedown artists, and they all make Norbit's life a living hell—until an old childhood flame (Thandie Newton) returns to town.

Rasputia is funny to watch; Murphy goes all out turning her into an insane cartoon, without relying strictly on the obligatory thong and fart jokes. As Norbit, however, he fails miserably. Adopting a lispy-nerdy voice that's halfway between Woody Allen and Tim Meadows' Ladies Man, and delivering a noncommittal performance that's too phony to be sympathetic and too half-assed to be funny, he seems disinterested in the role that should be the heart of the story.

Murphy also appears in a third role—that of a racist Chinese restaurant owner. The performance itself is borderline racist, but like Rasputia, is just over-the-top enough to elicit a few giggles. Maybe Murphy has forgotten how to be sympathetic. You can almost sense the actor's own loathing for the puny, uncharismatic Norbit, but he comes alive playing these caricatured jerks.

And for all her faults, Rasputia's right about one thing: Thandie Newton is too damn skinny.

The 180—a Second Opinion: If you're a fan of Big Momma or the Madea movies, watch and learn—you'll find a lot to love.

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