Uneven but engaging comedy stars Eddie Murphy as a selfish motormouth who’s forced by a bit of magic to shut up and rethink his life
“A THOUSAND WORDS,” Rated PG-13 — Eddie Murphy’s role in “A Thousand Words” challenges him in new ways as an actor, and he comes through. The film is OK for most teens, though parents of middle-schoolers might object to its midrange sexual slang and other crude language. Often glib and superficial in that Hollywood made-by-committee style, the film does touch compellingly on a major issue — how today’s fast-moving world can make people lose touch with their inner lives. Murphy plays Jack McCall, a slick literary agent. He’s married (to Kerry Washington) and has a young son, but he’s too self-absorbed and manically motormouthed to notice that his wife, his son and his mother (Ruby Dee) in her retirement home crave his attention. A popular guru, Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), whose book Jack wants to sell, sees right through him. A tree from Dr. Sinja’s garden pops up in Jack’s yard in a flash of magic realism. Every time Jack utters a word, the tree loses a leaf. Dr. Sinja warns Jack that when the tree’s last 1,000 leaves are gone, Jack will die. While the guru is away in search of an answer, Jack must communicate without speaking, to preserve his life. This is when Murphy gets to use his comic genius, and when his character gets in touch with his spiritual side.THE BOTTOM LINE: Murphy’s character uses a lot of middle-range sexual slang and other crude language. His wife wears sexy lingerie and tries to seduce him in a hotel, where he’s caught in the hallway in his undies. His assistant (Clark Duke) talks nongraphically about his own kinky sexual longings and videos he and a co-worker made.
A stuffy Scot and an emotional Englishwoman bond while trying improbably to bring salmon fishing to the Middle East in this odd, enjoyable rom-com
“SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN,” Rated PG-13, Limited Release — The charm of the cast and the whimsy of the story make “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” an enjoyable, if increasingly improbable, little movie (based on the novel by Paul Torday) that high-schoolers 15 and older might find refreshingly different. Ewan McGregor plays the shy, repressed Dr. Alfred Jones, a fisheries expert. Harriet (Emily Blunt) works for a wealthy, spiritually inclined Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked), who owns estates in Scotland and loves salmon fishing. The sheik wants to bring that sport to Yemen. Dr. Jones thinks the idea is ludicrous, but he’s drawn in by Harriet and then ordered to get involved by the British prime minister’s hilariously cynical press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas), who wants a good story from the Middle East. The undertaking is huge and the sheik’s own countrymen try to sabotage it. Dr. Jones and Harriet eventually form a bond that challenges his failing marriage and her own new boyfriend.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film features one comical, semi-explicit sexual situation and a couple other steamy but nonexplicit encounters. The prospect of divorce is a subtheme, as is a report of Harriet’s military boyfriend going missing in action. The few brief violent situations are not bloody. The script includes rare profanity and some characters drink.
A riotous update of the late 1980s TV series about cops going undercover among teens in search of criminals
“21 JUMP STREET,” Rated R — Teens 17 and older may not know the 1987-91 TV series “21 Jump Street,” which sent Johnny Depp on the road to stardom. (He has a cameo late in this film.) However, they’ll probably be carried along by the go-for-broke high-energy of this irreverent and consistently hilarious update. The film is too foully profane for under-17s, though some will likely try to see it. The clumsy, nerdy, book-smart Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and the handsome, brainless, athletic Jenko (Channing Tatum) were opposites in high school. A few years later at the police academy they become pals and partners, making up for each other’s weaknesses, they hope. After they bumble their first attempt at an arrest and endanger the public, they’re reassigned to 21 Jump Street, a special unit run out of an inner-city church by a profane captain (Ice Cube) who thinks they’re idiots. He sends them undercover into a high school to find the source of a new drug that’s endangering teens. Schmidt and Jenko get caught up in the school’s social whirl, but this time Schmidt’s the cool guy and Jenko’s the loser. They do everything wrong, yet succeed.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The dialogue is unceasingly, heavily profane and the sexual slang and innuendo are highly explicit. The movie has at least one sexual situation — a high-school-age threesome with nudity, though nonexplicit. The use of the misogynist word rhyming with “witch” is nearly constant. Scenes of gun violence, car chases and explosions do not result in graphic injuries. There is toilet humor.
Two estranged brothers and their lonely mom share a life epiphany in this surprisingly effective serio-comedy
“JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME,” R, Limited Release — College kids 17 and older will likely take to this low-tech, off-center tale of two adult brothers and their mom, all living unhappily in Baton Rouge and looking for their lives to turn around. Jeff (Jason Segel) lives in his mother Sharon’s (Susan Sarandon) basement. He’s unemployed, smokes pot and ponders the deeper meanings of the 2002 movie “Signs” (PG-13). When he gets a wrong-number call meant for someone named “Kevin,” Jeff starts following everyone he encounters with that name. It gets him mugged in a bad neighborhood. His brother Pat (Ed Helms) is married to Linda (Judy Greer) but the couple doesn’t communicate any more. Pat’s purchase of a sports car they can’t afford leads him to near disaster. Sharon has a desk job and suddenly starts to receive instant messages from a “secret admirer” in the office. These seemingly disparate situations cleverly bring the three family members closer than they’ve been in a while and cause their lives to change for the better.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In addition to Jeff’s marijuana use, the movie shows characters drinking. The dialogue is quite profane, with multiple uses of the F-word.