Fox // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // November 14th, 2008
Eddie Murphy is Eddie Murphy in Meet Dave.
Reflecting on the poor box-office performance of Meet Dave, Fox distribution executive Bert Livingstone argued, "It was a tough concept to get across. It's upsetting for all of us and for Eddie. He's very funny in this. Just not enough people came." Could it be possible that in a summer where The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! dominated the worldwide box office, Meet Dave simply got lost in the crowd? Maybe it really is a forgotten gem. S'yeah right!
The planet Nil is dying. An energy crisis has seen the planet run desperately low on salt; if their supplies are not replenished soon the planet's inhabitants will die out.
In a last ditch attempt to save Nil, a crew is sent to the planet Earth to drain its oceans and thus provide them with all the salt they need. Cleverly given the appearance of a human, their spaceship (played by Eddie Murphy) allows the crew of one-inch tall aliens to move around freely and interact with the people they meet. There is one problem, however: the device they need to drain the oceans has been lost, and they must retrieve it in order for their plan to work. Thanks to a coincidental car accident, the crew is introduced to Gina Morrison (Elizabeth Banks, Slither) and her son Josh (Austyn Myers). Only three months ago Josh took possession of a mysterious metallic ball that fell from the sky, the very same ball that the ship's crew plans to use to destroy Earth.
The ship's captain (also played by Eddie Murphy) grows strangely attached to Gina and Josh and, through his time spent on Earth, begins to sympathize with the plight of the Earthlings. With his control of the spaceship, now christened Dave Ming Chang, he begins to form a very real relationship with Gina and Josh, eventually falling in love with Gina. But every film needs its villain, and, to that end, the ship's Number 2 (Ed Helms, The Office) stages a mutiny. Taking control of the ship/Dave, Number 2 plans to carry out the crew's original mission and destroy Earth.
When even a gag that involves a cat receiving a boot to the butt falls flat, you must know something is desperately wrong with your movie. Forget the fact the film bombed at the U.S. box office, Meet Dave simply fails as a piece of entertainment. The films blend of Innerspace (or Fantastic Voyage, depending on your age) and Starman never gels convincingly, leaving the whole experience feeling disjointed and borderline unwatchable.
Taking on the stranger in a strange land concept, Meet Dave initially casts the crew from the planet Nil as hostile, planning to drain the Earth's oceans and thus destroy the planet. However, through interactions with Earthlings, primarily Gina Morrison and her son Josh, the alien visitors warm to the planets inhabitants -- and that's right about the place the problems start.
The film's observations on the human condition range from the obvious to the contrived. Did writers Ron Greenberg and Bill Corbett really see this film as being something deeper? Are we supposed to watch the movie and, after dabbing the tears from our eyes, remark on how wonderful we all really are? Should the sight of a homeless man offering Dave a blanket make me feel all cuddly inside, without questioning what kind of society lets a man fall on such hardship in the first place? The film's attempts at comedy are similarly dire. An ongoing gag involving Dave's inability to understand the concept of the handshake just grates, things aren't helped by Murphy's dumb-ass smile every time Dave does something "amusing." Even worse, the film lacks structure. We see Dave and his crew get into a series of "hilarious" scrapes, but there's nothing of substance here, events just happen with little reason or purpose; what should be an important subplot involving a policeman who suspects the truth about Dave is kept too far in the background to be relevant. By the time it makes the move into Honey I Shrunk the Kids territory, Meet Dave is beyond saving.
Director Brian Robbins brings very little to the table. Seemingly too enamored by his star to vocalize his own opinions, Robbins hands the reigns over to Murphy and lets him do as he pleases, merely ensuring the cameras are turned on to capture the results.
Murphy himself turns in a desperately cold performance. While a certain level of inhumanity may have been acceptable in his role as the ship, the combination of his dead eyes and embarrassing attempts at physical comedy make Dave a difficult character to like. Less embarrassing, but doubly annoying, is his turn as the ship's captain. Complete with a dodgy accent and dull as dishwater personality, Murphy's performance here makes his turn in The Golden Child look positively Oscar worthy. Elizabeth Banks, whose star seems to be rising, is wasted here. Her natural gift for comedy is never once utilized.
The screener copy of Meet Dave sent for review features a poor 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that, I assume, is of a lesser quality than the retail copy. As such, the score given here reflects the contents of the screener copy only. The 5.1 soundtrack is much easier to judge, being apparently free of the hobbling the video took. Clear dialogue with minimal, but effective use of the rear speakers means that Meet Dave is at least pleasing to the ears. Extras are limited to a short "Cast Confessions" featurette. That nobody confessed the truth about this dismal movie renders the feature pointless.
A large amount of the criticism leveled at Meet Dave has been aimed directly at Eddie Murphy himself. Now, while the movie sees Murphy continue his dramatic fall from grace, he is but one misfiring cog in the engine that drives the film. As his role in Dream Girls showed, given the right material (and assuming he can actually be bothered), Murphy still has remnants of the old magic stored in reserve. Unfortunately, as efforts like Norbit have shown, Murphy no longer seems to give a damn. Those, like me, who are old enough to remember Murphy in his prime, are likely to find this lax attitude towards his output both annoying and sad.
Murphy sleepwalks his way through yet another disaster that only serves to pad out his CV with more tat. That director Brian Robbins previous movie was the financially successful, but creatively bankrupt Norbit, doesn't inspire much hope for his future projects. Nobody comes out clean from Meet Dave, with the possible exception of Elizabeth Banks who quickly helped expunge memories of this turkey with the timely release of Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Guilty. Meet Dave is worth a rental for those wanting to witness a train wreck of a movie. It's every bit as bad as you've heard, but some people need to see it for themselves. Everyone else should avoid it at all costs.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Crew Confessions
* Official Site