Heard about Meet Dave? The movie follows a group of aliens from the planet Nil, who, with their captain (Eddie Murphy) travel to Earth in a spaceship/robot named Dave who is also played by Eddie Murphy. Apparently, a mish-mash of fish-out-of-water and space traveling hijincks ensue until Dave meets a young child who warms his heart and convinces everyone to show compassion for one another (sadly, Eddie Murphy's actual child with Mel B. could not do the same for him). Sadly, the film is written by Mystery Science Theater 3000 writer/star Bill Corbett who, like Murphy, also decided to phone it in. More on that, after the jump.
Reteaming with "Norbit" director Brian Robbins, Murphy tries some sharp physical comedy on for size, and though he's terrific (especially as that space ship), too often the Fox vehicle is content to meet the jokes halfway.
Still, like most of Murphy's recent output, the movie aims low — as in, the targeted pint-sized audience — and its family-friendly results should translate into some solid summer numbers.
"Meet Dave" works best when helmer Brian Robbins, working from a clever script by Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett, uses the f/x trickery relatively sparingly, and allows Murphy to shine as the pic's most special effect. His gracefully awkward body language in Dave's early scenes recalls Steve Martin's herky-jerky hilarity as the spiritually possessed lawyer in "All of Me."
But even after the man-shaped spaceship adapts to ambulating, Murphy remains amusing as Dave does his best to mimic the expressions and understand the language of Earthlings.
Think of this as Coming to Earth with Murphy not only playing a cultural fish out of water but also an unfamiliar and uncoordinated body. Scenes like the one where Dave wrestles with both a sweater and the English language in an Old Navy store are really pretty funny, but the film falls apart once it tries to become an action movie and force a big climax.
Murphy's still got chops, but unfortunately doesn't seem to care much about the scripts he picks.
Proven comic talents like Judah Friedlander and Ed Helms make up much of Murphy's crew, but apart from speaking in contraction-free spaceman-ese, the film doesn't give them anything funny to do. Murphy's performance is little more than an unblinking variation on his Coming To America stranger-in-a-strange-land shtick crossed with gags left over from the late, unlamented '90s sitcom Herman's Head. Here a sample: Banks offers Murphy-the-ship some meat loaf. Cut to Murphy-the-captain being confused when shown footage of the singer Meat Loaf. It's comedy that doesn't ask anyone, onscreen or in the audience, to try too hard.
The scenario's influences range from "All of Me" to "Innerspace" to "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex" without the sex. Murphy's Dave is typified by a look of pop-eyed otherworldliness. Better material and more adept direction might've made this a perfectly solid commercial enterprise. As is, "Meet Dave" is imperfectly lame, and until Murphy-and other movie stars in his relative position of power-hold out for fresher goods, the multiplexes will continue to offer sporadically diverting time-wasters such as this one.
Jokes are laced with racism, homophobia and stereotypes of all stripes.
Given that co-screenwriter Bill Corbett was a writer for the quirky Mystery Science Theater 3000, Meet Dave really should have been funnier. Things certainly don't improve when the movie plunges into trite sentimentality: "The most powerful force in all the universe often comes from the smallest stars," Dave tells Gina's son, Josh. And: "Promise me you'll always take pride in being different."
Of minor note is that Mr. Murphy's penchant for playing more than one character, which until recently suggested an impatience with the limitations of most of his roles, has started to feel like a hedge against boredom. Though mildly amusing, his two characters in "Meet Dave" - a wee captain and a humanoid spaceship - neither tax nor stretch him. When the captain instructs the spaceship to walk and talk among the earthlings, it does so perfectly, the very picture of a well-oiled comedy machine.
If Murphy seems to have learned something from the scathing reaction to the excessive and generally grotesque "Norbit," Brian Robbins, who directed that movie as well as this one, has not. As if to make up for Murphy's tightly controlled performance, the movie's other actors are pushed past the limits of parody. A graceful actress in a thankless role, Banks is given little but a string of open-mouthed reaction shots, and Gabrielle Union fares no better as the captain's onboard love interest. The ship's unnamed crew members are a collection of undifferentiated types who evolve into lazy caricatures under the influence of Earth's undisciplined emotions. There's a black crewman (Kevin Hart) who becomes a trash-talker lech after he's exposed to hip-hop, a mustachioed grunt (Pat Kilbane) who catches a glimpse of "A Chorus Line" and swiftly goes gay, and a nerdy engineer (Judah Friedlander) who starts racking up MySpace friends. For a self-proclaimed superior race, these Lilliputian explorers are notably underdeveloped.
Essentially phoning in the broad, family friendly shtick that has become his trademark over the past decade, Murphy stars as both a human-sized spaceship that has landed on Earth and its itty-bitty captain, who is at the controls from inside the ship's head.
It's a high-concept premise from screenwriters Rob Greenberg ("Frasier") and Bill Corbett ("Mystery Science Theater 3000"), but the execution is mostly lowbrow. Director Brian Robbins, whose "Norbit" with Murphy last year looks like a bold slice of comic genius by comparison, runs through a variety of bland fish-out-of-water scenarios in workmanlike fashion. (And let's not forget that for all eternity, we can refer to it as the Academy Award-nominated "Norbit," since it was recognized for its complex makeup.)
'Meet Dave' opens in theaters nationwide today.