This Can’t Be Good for Anybody

Satan wants my soul now?In this weekend’s battle of the big-screen fiends, Eddie Murphy’s “Norbit” is the clear winner, having outgrossed “Hannibal Rising” by a cool twenty million.

I use “outgrossed” in the financial sense, although it’s also true that “Norbit” is far more sickening, disturbing and just plain evil than the movie about the guy who kills people and eats their faces.

You can’t fault “Hannibal Rising” for being what it is. It’s just a dumb animal — a brand extension, an attempt to milk a franchise that’s long since lost its relevance and its urgency. In an age of constant media-hyped terror, how can a courtly, erudite European compete with suitcase nukes and Mooninites? Even Sylar on “Heroes” is a creepier brain-eater than the good doctor Lecter, though his cannibalism is still strictly theoretical.

Nah, people were bound to be drawn to “Norbit“, which arrives in a perfect storm of buzz. Eddie Murphy’s the front-runner for an Oscar, Martin Lawrence and Tyler Perry have made it okay to laugh at morbidly obese black women, and the trailer — in which Murphy can clearly be seen playing multiple grotesqueries, rather than a cheerful suburban patriarch — assures his fans that, at the very least, that this won’t be another “Daddy Day Care”.

Well, it isn’t. After the longish prologue, there’s not an adorable tyke to be found, and there are no bed-wetting jokes. But it’s just as torturous, and you leave the theater feeling dirty.

I know, I know. It’s just a comedy. People just want to laugh when they go to the movies.

But why are they laughing at this?

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