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Awesome: 11.54%
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Just Average57.69%
Pretty Crappy: 7.69%
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3 reviews, 8 user ratings

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Meet Dave
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Another Brother from Another Planet"
3 stars

Due to events far beyond my control, I was unable to make it to the press screening of “Meet Dave,” Eddie Murphy’s first foray into the world of sci-fi wackiness since the detonation of the all-time box-office bomb “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.” Under normal circumstances, I might have considered both the fairly uninspiring previews and the fact that Murphy’s films have become increasingly grim and unpleasant endeavors in recent years and just washed my hands of the whole thing, but when I learned that a local theater was going to be having a midnight screening on its opening day (presumably because the place was already going to be open for a similar showing of “Hellboy Deux,” I made sure to turn up for it for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the masochist in me wanted to show up to see if it really was as bad as the trailers and the advanced word made it out to be. For another, the curiosity seeker in me wanted to show up to see what kind of people would come out at midnight in order to proudly consider themselves among the first to see “Meet Dave.” Well, regarding the latter, I guess that the joke was on me because as it turns out, I was the only person who attended that screening--perhaps potential viewers heard that Murphy decided to skip the film’s gala premiere at the last second and decided to follow suit. As it turns out, the joke was on them as well as Murphy because while “Meet Dave” will not go down as a contemporary comedy classic or even as a passable piece of fluff, it is nowhere near as awful as it looks and is probably the closest thing that he has done to an agreeable film (not counting his serious turn in “Dreamgirls”) in a long time.

The story kicks off as a small meteorite crash-lands in the bedroom of young Josh (Austyn Lind Myers), a scrawny little kid with an active imagination, a slightly overprotective mother, Gina (Elizabeth Banks) and a bully problem. Three months later, the two of them meet Dave (Murphy), a strange man who has come looking for the meteorite. It turns out that Dave is harboring a couple of big secrets. For one thing, he isn’t a man at all--he is actually a spaceship who is being controlled from the inside by a crew of tiny people from the planet Nil that includes the stern Captain (Murphy again), the increasingly deranged No.2 (Ed Helms) and the efficient yet lovelorn No.3 (Gabrielle Union). For another, that meteorite that they are looking for is actually a sphere that is meant to suck up all of the oceans of Earth in order to retrieve the salt that will save Nil from destruction while inevitably destroying Earth. While trying to track down the sphere, the Captain begins to feel some unexpected sympathy for mankind and even the other members of the crew start acting strangely as well in response to the new sensations they are experiencing for the first time, news that doesn’t sit well with the power-mad and mutinous No.2. Meanwhile, Dave is being pursued by a pair of dopey New York City cops who were assigned to investigate his crash site of Liberty Island. How dopey are they, you may ask? Consider the fact that Scott Caan plays the smarter of the two.

Make no mistake about it--much of “Meet Dave” is pretty bad. The storyline is pretty ramshackle in the way that it jerks between silly comedy (most of which seems to be derived from old Coneheads sketches) and icky sentiment, there are long stretches of time when nothing much of anything happens and the entire thing is rendered in such a visually drab style that you can’t help but daydream about what it might have looked like in the hands of a filmmaker slightly more inventive than the likes of uber-hack Brian Robbins. (I was about to suggest the wonders that might have ensued if someone like the perennially underrated Joe Dante until I realized that he already did do a variation on this film with the wonderful “Innerspace.”) More irritatingly, the film has the bright idea of bringing the firecracker likes of Elizabeth Banks into the proceedings and then fails to give her anything of interest to do other than to stare incredulously at the wackiness that everyone else gets to indulge in. And yet, at the same time, there are some reasonably nice things here as well. For the most part, it doesn’t overindulge in either high-priced special effects (at least until the finale) or low-brow toilet humor (though I could have lived without the hot dog-eating contest or its after-effects). Ed Helms is pretty funny as the increasingly nutso No. 2--imagine what might result from a cross between Captain Spock and Captain Queeg. And while the screenplay by Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett (the latter of whom gets a lifetime pass in my book for being the man who was literally behind Crow T. Robot on “Mystery Science Theatre 3000”) may not contain very many big laughs, it does sneak in a bunch smaller ones here and there that provide smiles and the occasional chuckle--I really liked the bit when the Captain tries to understand mankind by watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and finds himself trying to choke back the tears at the end. (“Lasso the moon--physically impossible!”)

The other thing that works in “Meet Dave” is, of all things, Eddie Murphy himself. Maybe it is the fact that he isn’t hiding under tons of latex or maybe it is because the film as a whole isn’t as bottomless offensive and depressing as his previous collaboration with Robbins, the ultra-dire “Norbit”--whatever the reason, he is more likable here than he has been in any of his comedies since the tragically unsung “Bowfinger.” Some of the little bits of physical comedy that he indulges in as Dave tries to pass as a normal human are inspired and on the whole, he seems more committed here than he has in most of his family film paycheck roles in the past (There is even one throwaway bit that gives a shout out to one of his best-known bits from his stand-up days that should amuse audience members of a certain age.) Again, it isn’t a great performance by any means and it is a far cry from his best work from the past but it is the first film has done in a long time where he doesn’t wear out his welcome long before the conclusion.

“Meet Dave” is unfocused and never quite reaches its full potential and as a result, I can’t quite recommend that you load up the family and go to see it this weekend--certainly not if you can’t make the matinee show and definitely not if you haven’t yet seen the truly magical “WALL*E.” And yet, if you do find yourself watching it, either in the theatre or (more likely) at home on DVD or cable, you might be a little bit surprised to discover that it isn’t entirely without merit and if you are in the right mood for it, you might be won over by some of its cheerfully silly touches. Lord knows you have seen worse movies than this one and Lord knows that Eddie Murphy has probably been in many of them.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17265&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/11/08 07:32:03
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User Comments

11/27/08 Rachel Rigodon Has its moments 3 stars
11/26/08 Jon G very funny and imaginative 5 stars
9/12/08 I feared another Norbit... ...but went to see it on Sobczynski review - and it's almost ok 2 stars
8/18/08 Norman Richbaum excellent 5 stars
7/27/08 George Barksdale Funny in spots 2 stars
7/17/08 Vickie Couturier not much on this type of movie,but I like Eddie Murphy,this isnt one of his best movies 3 stars
7/11/08 Moviefan2020 Critic is wrong. "Dave" is very funny. Everyone loves it! 5 stars
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  11-Jul-2008 (PG)
  DVD: 25-Nov-2008


  DVD: 25-Nov-2008

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