STARRING: Eddie Murphy, Gabrielle
Union, Ed Helms, Elizabeth Banks, Judah Friedlander, Pat Kilbane
2008, 90 Minutes, Directed by:
the king of comedy, it's been a disheartening journey for Eddie Murphy recently;
he's failed to remind audiences what once made him such a hot comedy commodity,
only to see his mojo dissipate through a series of bad script choices and
forgettable kid film diversions.
I wouldn't label Meet Dave a
reputation-revitalizing turn for the actor, but the picture is admirably
competent, delightfully silly, and absent a majority of repulsions typically
associated with an Eddie Murphy family film.
Sent to Earth to retrieve a
planet-killing device the size of a small rock, a crew of Lilliputian aliens man
a human-sized spaceship that goes by the name of Dave (Eddie Murphy). The Dave
crew soon meets up with single mom Gina (Elizabeth Banks, working wonders with a
thankless role) and her son Josh (Austin Lynd Myers), who has found the rock,
only to lose possession of the crucial device to a school bully.
Now set free in New York City,
the crew (including Eddie Murphy, Gabrielle Union, and Ed Helms) uses Dave to
absorb as much human culture as they can, finding attachment to Gina and Josh,
and getting wrapped up in Earthbound emotions they are unaccustomed to.
Let's be honest, with Murphy
and director Brian Robbins (Norbit, Good Burger) attached to
Meet Dave, expectations couldn't fall any lower. Robbins is a studio zombie
with little artistic aspiration of his own, while Murphy likes pay checks and
trading off his past. Let's just say I wasn't pumped to sit down to actually
Then something funny happened
to these men: screenwriters Rob Greenberg (How I Met Your Mother) and
riff virtuoso Bill Corbett (Crow deux on Mystery Science
Theater 3000). The gentlemen have created an engaging sci-fi adventure for
Murphy and Robbins, putting some genuine thought into the scenarios, locales,
and punch lines of the picture, giving Robbins and Murphy a screenplay that even
they couldn't fully knucklehead up, despite their best efforts.
"Who knew Eddie Murphy still had some fun left in him?"
Perhaps I'm being too hard on
Robbins, who actually connects with this strange mixture of
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Star Trek, and
Innerspace. It's the most competent directorial job
he's presented to date, creating a durable visual foundation for Murphy to play
around on. There's an amazing playground of differing scales to embrace in this
script, with Robbins putting in the cartoon work to sell the madness of little
aliens vs. the big, bad world. Of course, I wasn't thrilled with predictable
detours to potty humor, but Meet Dave manages to stay fixated on its
intent: to massage the most weirdness out of the title character's alien status.
Maybe to Murphy, Meet Dave
is nothing innovative, but there's a recognizable funny bone spark about him
here that's been lost for some time. Dave offers Murphy an opportunity to
try on some clowning, parading around in a blinding Fantasy Island suit
and making faces for the camera in a sociable, silly heart manner that's
The spaceship Dave is Murphy
allowing himself a blast of atypical humiliation, and the actor wears it
beautifully. The commander of spaceship Dave permits Murphy to stroke his
well-documented Captain Kirk obsessions, and while it's the less showy of the
two roles, Murphy achieves a pleasing Starfleet tone as the leader of the tiny
It's not surprising to find
that Meet Dave loses its way once sentimentality is introduced. Oddly,
Robbins doesn't shove the film into tears and morals mode, only lightly coating
the film with some uplifting messages and spending minimal time with romancing
Dave crew members. Honestly, I would rather see more handholding and It's a
Wonderful Life-inspired sentiment than some of the more loathsome limp-wristed
jokes (the Dave weapons specialist finds a love for musical theater and
hairstyling) shoved into the material out of sheer desperation.
Meet Dave gets back on
track with a smorgasbord of thrilling near-misses as the miniature Dave crew
hits the streets of New York to save the day, dodging cars, getting stuck in
gum, and using grocery store plastic bags to float to safety.
I'm sure a more
refined filmmaker could've squeezed the premise tighter for sophisticated
laughs, but as family-angled sci-fi comedies go, Meet Dave is actually
quite agreeable. Who knew Murphy still had some fun left in him?
- Brian Orndorf