Back in July 2008, I remember reading the movie listings for Philadelphia-area movie theaters. There's absolutely no reason this memory should be emblazoned in my mind, save for one strange fact — multiple theaters in the greater Bucks-Montgomery County nexus were holding opening night 12:01 AM showings of Meet Dave, that bomb about aliens living inside a robotic Eddie Murphy's head.
NOTE: Spoilers ahead for a movie you'll watch half-asleep on mute on an airplane.
Back in the heady days of 2008, Meet Dave was released with zero fanfare (we were living in a post-Norbit era, you see). I'm pretty sure all of that movie's advertising budget was sunk into that giant creepy Eddie Murphy head that toured the nation like the public autopsy of some dead god. There was absolutely no reason Meet Dave necessitated a midnight showing, let alone at multiple theaters.
For years, I've regretted not attending a Meet Dave midnight show, if but only to see who the hell showed up. Was the theater packed with Eddie Murphy completists? Did these diehards brandish signed vinyl copies of "Party All The Time" and Vampire in Brooklyn laserdiscs?
Or would the theater transform into a deathtrap set by sinister ushers? Part of a midnight showing's appeal is the fan electricity, whooping it up with a few hundred like-minded people at the witching hour. I imagine a few of those Meet Dave screenings were totally empty, save for a carbon monoxide leak, Burmese tiger pit, or a bloodlusty orangutan armed with a straight razor. (I hope I'm not giving any of you ideas for next month's 12:01 showing of The Three Stooges.)
I've been haunted by this choice for years, ~3.75 years. So it was with a sense of immense cosmic purpose that I strode into a movie theater in New York's Union Square at 11:50 PM last night to see A Thousand Words. Who (or what) would greet me?
(I suppose the theater I picked was a bit of an outlier. Someone's always awake and bored in downtown Manhattan, so there almost certainly would be an audience. On the flip side, NYC's greater population density also guaranteed a greater probability that somebody would open a crate of badgers 10 minutes in.)
At quarter to midnight, the theater was silent like some Olmec mausoleum. This effect was achieved by a Prometheus poster and Tara Reid's jaguar sneer slapped upon some American Reunion banners.
With nobody around, the theater's geometry became pointlessly ominous. Escalators led to empty landings. Arcade games shrieked for an invisible colony of dust mites, emboldened by the diminished footfalls. A group of frozen children leered at me from a weirdly placed urinal ad, pleading me to hold my next birthday with Regal Cinemas while simultaneously withholding a prophecy that I would not survive the night.
The ticket taker assigned me to Theater 11. Here, the grand anticlimax unfolded. Upon arriving, I discovered fourteen people: three middle-aged couples, two cadres of stoned NYU students (both modifiers presumed, given the proximity of the dorms to the theater and the fact that they were way too entertained by The Three Stooges ad), and sixty-something man in the front (who did not appear to be masturbating). All in all, I rate this moviegoing experience a solid B+ as I did not die during any point in the film.
I suppose this is the point in the review where I should say something about A Thousand Words. In sum, Eddie Murphy is an unceasingly yammering book agent who is accidentally cursed by a non-denominational New Age yogi. How? A magic tree materializes in his yard. For every word that Eddie Murphy says or scribbles, a single leaf falls out of the tree. Eddie only has 1,000 words left before he and the tree die, and he drunkenly wastes most of them on a Teddy Pendergrass song in a suicide attempt. This is a serious scene.
When I was in middle school, my favorite movie in the world was Trading Places because Eddie Murphy said "fuck" a bunch of times and Jamie Lee Curtis was topless (True Lies was a close second, for obvious reasons). In comparison, A Thousand Words is rated PG-13 and Jamie Lee Curtis is making commercials about poop yogurt. Interpret that as you will.
PS: His last three words are "I forgive you" to his dead estranged father's grave. Not "Aaaaaaaaaall the time!" — as in "She likes to party aaaaaaaaaall the time!" — as I had hoped.