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Film / A Thousand Words

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A Thousand Words is a 2012 (filmed in 2008) comedy-drama film starring Eddie Murphy and directed by Brian Robbins.

Loquacious literary agent Jack McCall (Murphy) uses his voice to strike book deals for his company all the while neglecting his wife Caroline (Kerry Washington) and baby son Tyler. Jack becomes intrigued with the work of Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), whose teachings and philosophies have attracted immense crowds of people. During a discussion with Sinja at one of his many spiritual relaxation classes about striking a possible deal, Jack pricks his finger on a Bodhi tree. Upon returning home, he finds the same kind of tree has sprouted in his backyard, one with many, many leaves.

Jack calls Sinja over to his house to ask him why he put the tree here, but Sinja states that he had nothing to do with it. It isn't before long Sinja discovers with each word McCall speaks, a leaf drops off of the tree, Jack refuses to speak at all, as doing so will keep the tree, and him, alive. However, his work, marriage and friendships are all affected by his choice. Jack has his assistant Aaron Wiseberger (Clark Duke) keep track of how many leaves remain. Can Jack figure out an alternative method of survival? Or will he simply have to live the rest of his life to the fullest?

A Thousand Words provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Jack's senile mother Annie keeps calling him by her recently deceased husband's name Raymond.
  • Actor Allusion: Famous French actor and director Alain Chabat shares a scene with Eddie Murphy, playing the French Businessman. Both men have worked on Shrek, the former dubbing for the titular character in French and the latter as the talking donkey.
  • Award-Bait Song: Out Loud by Mary Mary.
  • Black Bra and Panties: Caroline wears leather ones for a romantic rendezvous with Jack that falls apart due to his silence.
  • Disappeared Dad: Jack had one. He has a lot of issues he had to resolve throughout the film.
  • Face Death with Dignity: At one point a drunken Jack tries to do this singing along to one of his favorite songs. Also counts as being Driven to Suicide. Later, when down to his last sentence he tires to make peace with his mother and wife, while also doing favors and giving short word goodbyes to the parking valet who’s always been trying to sell him a book and the barista he's been doing charades for in order to get orders.
  • Here We Go Again!: At the end, after becoming a materialistic agent himself, Aaron gets a tree of his own (even smaller than Jack's) and gives an Oh, Crap! exclamation (although since no leaves are seen falling off, it might have just been a prank).
  • Hit Points: The leaves on the tree are treated like these In-Universe for Jack. For each word he speaks, one leaf falls off the tree, and if the tree is reduced to no leaves, Jack dies.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: At the end, Jack is shown bringing the book to his own publishing company to work out a deal.
  • Mistaken Confession: Jack's stony silence the first day he learns that talking brings him closer to death causes his assistant Aaron to babble on thinking Jack is mad first about him missing work recently, then about kissing Caroline under the mistletoe at a Christmas party, then about having sex with the secretary in Jack's office while their wearing animal costumes all of which Jack gives incredulous expressions at.
  • Scam Religion: Jack openly admits thinking Sinja is running one but he turns out to be sincere.
  • Shout-Out: When Jack uses talking dolls to talk on the phone, E.T., a Terminator doll and a doll with the likeness of Austin Powers are shown.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: When Jack demonstrates the leaves falling when he talks, he says the sentence "It's not a coincidence, you idiot!" out of frustration for the latter thinking so. Aaron then says "You just lost five more" when leaves fall after Jack says this, even though Jack's sentence was six words long, not five.