Rating: 2 stars
Is it possible that Eddie Murphy just has bad taste? I mean, the man has prodigious gifts—he’s arguably the greatest comic actor of his generation—and yet his recent films have been stinkers. Okay, there have been a few exceptions—Dreamgirls, obviously, plus Shrek and the Nutty Professor series—but the duds just keep on coming: The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, Daddy Day Care, Dr. Doolittle, and—shudder—Norbit. And now there’s Meet Dave.
Is it a terrible movie? I guess not. It’s just low-rent and half-hearted—you don't get the sense that anyone involved really tried all that hard.
The wacky premise—a group of bite-sized aliens come down to earth to retrieve an important orb in a space ship that can take human form (Murphy plays not only the captain of the ship, but the ship in human form) —should have given Murphy ample room to strut his stuff. He does have some fun with learning the human way of smiling and shaking hands—and then some more fun getting tangled in a turtleneck at Old Navy (the product placement in this film is particularly egregious)—but the film really under-utilizes his gifts. Murphy spends a large part of the film as the sober captain, speaking in a strange accent (alien?) while first mate Gabrielle Union makes googly eyes at him. He also spends part of the film pooping out aliens and hot dogs (did I mention that this is kid’s film?).
The basic gist here is that the aliens were planning on destroying the earth but Murphy ends up bonding with single mother Gina (spunky Elizabeth Banks) and her 10-year-old son (Austyn Myers) and coming to realize that these humans are actually pretty okay. Meanwhile, the aliens start taking on human characteristics—one of the ship’s mates realizes he’s gay and starts listening to show tunes and giving everyone makeovers (did I mention that the jokes were tired?) while a black mate starts shaking his groove thing to hip-hop (raise your hand if you’re offended yet).
One of the film’s best jokes? Gina asks Murphy his name. Inside the ship, the mates quickly scramble to come up with earth’s most popular name. “Ming Chen,” Murphy responds. “Funny,” says Gina. “You look more like a Dave.”
A little more of that kind of ingenuity would’ve gone a long way. As for Murphy: He can't improve his taste, but he might consider a new agent.