FamilyFilmgoerWatching With Kids in MindBy Jane Horwitz

By Jane Horwitz
Friday, February 9, 2007

Norbit(PG-13, 102 minutes)

Insulting overweight women, spoofing various ethnicities and being mean to sweet little dogs, "Norbit" is rude, crass, politically incorrect and yet often very funny. This story of a small-town milquetoast (Eddie Murphy) held hostage by a huge and mean wife (also Murphy) and how he gets out from under her serves up a feast of low comedy. Not an appropriate diet for middle schoolers, with its euphemistic sex jokes and innuendo, it will make plenty of high schoolers guffaw. Finding enjoyment in "Norbit" will be a minority view among critics, but the Family Filmgoer sees as something to celebrate Murphy's genius for stepping into outrageous "fat suits" and other transformative makeup and creating full-blooded characters while hiding inside all that rubber.

As mentioned above, the movie is full of sexual innuendo, including lurid views of Norbit's wife, Rasputia, in a bikini. In fact, all her outfits cover enormous and very clearly outlined breasts -- a nod to "realism." There are non-graphic jokes about wedding night bedroom antics, the size of a little boy's penis, about pimps (played by Eddie Griffin and Katt Williams), prostitutes, condoms and more. There are threats of violence (one involving razor blades and lemon juice) and comical confrontations between thugs and town folk. The dialogue includes considerable mid-range profanity and sexual language as well as numerous uses of the rhymes-with-witch word. Rasputia drives over a neighbor's dog on purpose. We next see the pooch wearing wheels in place of its back legs. Chasing kids who've taken her hat, she says, "Don't think I won't kill a child." Bad taste? What taste? And let us not forget the flatulence jokes.

Norbit grew up a meek and bespectacled orphan in a small town, raised by the kindly restaurant/orphanage owner Mr. Wong (also Murphy). Big, bad Rasputia chose poor Norbit in grade school to be her man, and he eventually marries her. Her family of thuggish building contractors won't let him out of their sight. Then one day Norbit's childhood pal, the lovely Kate (Thandie Newton), comes back to town with a fiance (Cuba Gooding Jr.) Norbit doesn't trust, and he acquires gumption.

ALSO PLAYING

6 and Older

"Night at the Museum" (PG). Enjoyable, if under-realized and internally illogical, romp (live-action with computer-generated effects) about a schlump (Ben Stiller) hired as the night guard at New York's Natural History Museum; his aged predecessors (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, Bill Cobbs) fail to mention that the exhibits -- a T. rex skeleton, Attila the Hun, Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), miniature Roman legions, Civil War soldiers and cowboys (Owen Wilson in a cameo) -- come alive each night; he must stave off chaos, keep his job, impress his son (Jake Cherry) and woo a museum guide (Carla Gugino). Little kids may jump at the dinosaur chasing Stiller, the Huns grabbing him; toilet humor; rude expressions.

PG-13s and a PG Documentary for Teens

"The Messengers." Highly derivative but artfully made, nicely acted, largely non-gory ghost thriller about a couple (Dylan McDermott and Penelope Ann Miller) who bring their sad, sullen teen daughter (Kristen Stewart) and non-speaking toddler son (Evan Turner) to a North Dakota farm to start anew after the daughter messed up somehow back in Chicago. Soon the little boy and then his sister start to see scary doings in the house, zombie-like ghosts and skittering creatures; only the girl can talk about it, and no one believes her. Absence of graphic violence will please some teens, disappoint others; climactic attacks by a killer brandishing a pitchfork, desiccated, veiny-faced spirits lurking, scurrying, hanging from the ceiling; crows swarm and attack; rare profanity; mild sexual innuendo; verbal references to teen drinking, self-mutilation. Some middle schoolers may find film unsettling.

"Constellation." Strong cast (Billy Dee Williams, Hill Harper, Zoe Saldana, Lesley Ann Warren) lends depth and watchability to this sentimental, oddly roundabout tale of an extended African American family gathered in a Southern city to bury their favorite Aunt Carmel (Gabrielle Union, in flashbacks). In the prologue she is a young woman in the 1950s, in love with a white soldier (Daniel Bess); they are forced apart and haven't the strength to fight society; 50 years later, Carmel's brother (Williams), an artist, still blames his sister's one-time lover (David Clennon) for her unfulfilled life; other family members hash out their own relationship issues in her benevolent shadow. Strongly (but not graphically) implied that Carmel is raped by white men as punishment for her brief liaison; infidelity theme; profanity; drinking; smoking.

"God Grew Tired of Us" (PG). Highly moving, though confusingly structured, documentary (narrated by Nicole Kidman) focuses on two extraordinary young men within a small group of Sudanese refugees that settles in the United States. As boys they were among thousands of child refugees who trekked a thousand miles across the desert to escape Sudan's civil war, then spent 10 years in a refugee camp; some were allowed to come here. The film chronicles the immigrants' struggle to adapt and yet keep alive their traditions, working multiple jobs to send money back to their families. Upsetting, largely nongraphic news footage of the war, of people wounded and starving and of refugees languishing in a camp.

"Because I Said So." Diane Keaton burbles as an incredibly meddlesome single mom with three grown daughters. She secretly advertises on the Internet to find a mate for her still-single, slightly scattered youngest (Mandy Moore) in an overwrought, overdecorated, painfully contrived comedy. The daughter dallies with the snooty architect Mom chooses (Tom Everett Scott) and a cute musician (Gabriel Macht) not on the list. Numerous oblique but unmistakable references to sexual practices; euphemisms referring to female sex organs; talk of uncircumcised men; a lengthy, though rather prim discussion of orgasms; other cruder sexual language; a little boy innocently names male and female organs and asks to see a woman's; nonexplicit sexual situations; female character who juggles affairs with two men; implied nudity; sounds of sex from a porn Web site; rare profanity; a dog trying to mate with an ottoman; drinking. Too many nongraphic but adult sexual references for middle schoolers.

"Epic Movie." Occasionally funny, largely laborious spoof of such recent fantasy hits as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," among others. Four "orphans" played by adults (Kal Penn, Adam Campbell, Jayma Mays, Faune A. Chambers) win golden tickets to visit a candy factory; then it's off to a pirate ship and more. Constant crude sexual innuendo, often merging into sexual language; women in bikinis move suggestively; jokes about drugs for erectile dysfunction, about men mating with goats; a dead cat on a plate; a woman falling out of a plane; crazed candy maker yanking out someone's heart; hints he'd like to molest, then kill and cook the "orphans"; references to gang violence; drinking; toilet humor; snakes; middling profanity. Too lewd for middle schoolers.

"Stomp the Yard." Oft-corny college saga uplifted by exuberant dancing: A Los Angeles inner-city teen and ace street dancer (Columbus Short), still grieving for a brother killed in a brawl, goes to live with Atlanta relatives, enrolls in a historically black university and works part time; snobby students look down on him; he enters the frat houses' step competitions and aims to impress a girl (Meagan Good) and overcome roadblocks put up by her provost dad (Allan Louis) and arrogant boyfriend (Darrin Henson). Fatal shooting; middling profanity; racial slurs; implied overnight tryst; suggestive dancing by girls, rapper-style crotch-grabbing by guys; many shots of young women's jeans-clad behinds. Too much swearing, macho posturing for middle schoolers.

Rs

"Breaking and Entering." Gracefully filmed, emotionally layered, socially aware drama by writer-director Anthony Minghella rises above some, but not all, cliches of its genre -- films about progressive, arty Londoners with too much time to brood. Jude Law as an architect who becomes involved with the immigrant mother (Juliette Binoche) of a teen (Rafi Gavron) who helped burglarize his business; Robin Wright Penn as his depressive, still-beloved companion; Poppy Rogers as the troubled daughter they worry about. Nudity, including brief female frontal; prostitute character; not-quite explicit but strongly implied sexual situations; some sexual language; infidelity theme; child in physical danger; profanity; ethnic slur. Ideal for college film buffs.

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