9 March 2012 12:46 PM, PST | The Playlist | See recent The Playlist news »

You might not have noticed, but Eddie Murphy has a new movie in theaters today. That's a slightly loaded sentence: "A Thousand Words" was shot four years ago, has been barely screened for critics (those who have seen it have been vicious), and is being put into a mere 1900 theaters, nearly half as much as the week's biggest opening, "John Carter." And all this for a man who was once the brightest star on the planet.

But thanks to a string of bad movies (including bona-fide disasters such as "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," "Imagine That" and "Meet Dave"), Murphy is no longer a safe bet, and the kind of family fare that has been his bread and butter, and that turned off many of his fans, is now given token releases such as this.

But it hasn't always been this way. Once upon a time, Murphy was a comic hurricane, »

- Oliver Lyttelton

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