Meet Dave

Reviewed By Mel Valentin
Posted 07/11/08 01:22:44

"Here's a short story about "Meet Dave:" no."
1 stars (Sucks)

A cross between "Land of the Giants," a sci-fi/action show that aired in the 1960s (produced by the "master of disaster" Irwin Allen), "Fantastic Voyage," "Star Trek," the last skit in Woody Allen's "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask," a seven-skit comedy flick with little connection to its sober, non-fiction source material, and every "stranger in a strange land" or "fish out of water" plot scenario, "Meet Dave" isn't quite the nadir of Eddie Murphy's career (that honor belongs to "Norbit," followed closely by the justly forgotten "Pluto Nash"), but it's certainly in the bottom four or five. Playing a dual role, a man-sized space ship that looks like, well, Eddie Murphy and the captain of the ship (Murphy, again), Murphy loves nothing less than being in front of the camera. And that's exactly what we get with "Meet Dave," Murphy's latest (nail-in-the-coffin-that-was his career) effort.

Three months after a meteorite falls on Earth (Manhattan to be exact), an alien space ship lands on Liberty Island. The ship’s captain (Murphy) is on a mission to retrieve the orb and activate the orb. Once activated, the orb will literally suck out all the salt from the Earth’s oceans, leaving the Earth devastated. But the captain and his Lilliputian-sized race, the Nils, are facing a devastating crisis of their own. Without the salt that apparently powers their technology, the Nils will perish. The man-sized ship looks like, well, Eddie Murphy, nattily attired in a white suit, black tie, and black handkerchief. The tired joke here, of course, is that the Nils caught an episode of a long-defunct television show and modeled their ship after the host. Tracking the orb isn’t as easy as it looks, though, especially as the captain and his crew, including his second in command, No. 2 (Ed Helms), his cultural officer, No. 3 (Gabrielle Union), his security officer, No. 4 (Pat Kilbane), and his engineer (Judah Friedlander), know next to nothing about Earth’s customs. The best they can do is give their ship a common Earth name: Dave Ming-Chang.

The Nils’ predicament turns from bad to worse when Dave gets run over by an SUV driven by Gina Morrison (Elizabeth Banks, wasted). The damage leaves Dave unable to track the orb. Luckily for Dave and his crew, Gina’s son, Josh (Austin Myers), found the orb three months earlier. He even entered the orb in a science fair. Dave decides to befriend Gina, a widow still mourning the loss of her husband four years earlier, and Josh, pretending to be his substitute teacher. As the captain and his crew begin to learn human customs and habits, they begin to question their mission. While Dave hangs out with Gina and Josh, a police officer, Dooley (Scott Caan), and his partner, Knox (Mike O'Malley), are sent out to Liberty Island to investigate the crash. Dooley, an X-Files (apparently) suspects an alien or aliens disembarked on Liberty Island.

Clichéd, clumsy, nonsensical, occasionally offensive, often lame, and unengaging, Meet Dave will hasten what’s been obvious for so long to so many (but, alas, not all) moviegoers: Eddie Murphy has lost it as a comic actor. His once reliable comic timing seems to have deserted him. He’s also lost the ability to select screenplays that don't rely on crude, low-brow humor for cheap laughs. Or maybe he doesn't care. Maybe he's just happy to appear in one or two films a year, collect his paycheck(s), and flip off his critics as his latest effort bombs at the box office or, less and less likely, ends up doing well (Norbit) regardless of critical disapproval. That Murphy doesn’t care about the quality of the films he appears in doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care, of course. We should care. After all, it’s our hard-earned money that’s made Murphy a Hollywood star and a wealthy man.

No one else fares well in "Meet Dave:" Certainly not the director, Brian Robbins, who shows little talent for setting up visual gags or delivering on the family-friendly set pieces (the visual effects often look shoddy); certainly not the screenwriters, Rob Greenberg and Bill Corbett, who, between them, couldn’t come up with a single original gag or joke; and certainly not the cast, ill-served by Robbins’ barely competent direction or Greenberg and Corbett’s profoundly unfunny screenplay. Elizabeth Banks ("Scrubs," "Slither"), a seriously talented actress with great comic timing, deserved better, but she’s not alone. The entire cast, including Murphy, deserved better. And really, so did we.

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