20th Century Fox
Release Date: July 11, 2008
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Gabrielle Union, Elizabeth Banks, Scott Caan, Ed Helms
By Sean Chavel
If Eddie Murphy is decidedly fixed on making movies for the kiddie market than it’s fair enough to say that he’s done a lot worse than "Meet Dave." Harmless and even mildly clever at times, this vehicle lets Murphy indulge in the better of his physical comedian qualities. Murphy is a miniaturized alien who is the captain of a spaceship constructed in a human form. The spaceship also looks like Murphy. The expansive crew of mini-people act under Murphy’s command to control and operate his body. This lets way for Murphy’s gift of physical humor, looking odd and out of place as this dysfunctional spaceship unaccustomed to Earth customs.
How the aliens from planet Nill just happen to talk like Earthlings and look like Earthlings is never addressed. The movie doesn’t want to bother with explaining such things. Nor do such coincidences with Murphy bumping into Elizabeth Banks (as Gina) and her son improbably before Murphy realizes later they are the exact people he needs to find to track down a very special device that he needs to retrieve to return to his home planet. It’s hard to recall what the device is called, but it’s a metallic egg inside what looks like a piece of asteroid.
Captain Dave Ming Chang (his chosen Earth name) falls under the charming spell of Gina, a cutie single mom with those high-spirited and peppy qualities that actress Elizabeth Banks who is playing her possesses. Cute. Or cutesy. There’s a small schmaltz factor in the movie, but it’s not too smothering (select male members of the audience might find themselves gagging). The movie works best though when Murphy indulges in awkward mannerisms and behaves weird in front of strangers. He picks up the phrase “Welcome to Old Navy” while shopping and interprets it as a common social greeting. Murphy’s facial ticks while he says this is what makes the scene work.
What doesn’t work so well is a side story with a couple of cops, led by Scott Caan investigating a strange landing from the sky. Bor-inggg. These cops bring nothing lively to the company and the writing of these characters is shopworn. This whole business of cops doing alien tracking should have been discarded from the script. Sure, there are tackier elements in the movie. “Meet Dave” is directed by Brian Robbins of “Norbit” infamy for god sakes – he doesn’t exactly have an elegant eye for things. But nothing’s more boring than watching these cops.
"Meet Dave" isn’t despicable nor is it reputable. It is dumb in parts – the spaceships crew members in particular are square peg caricatures – but the movie is not obnoxious like "Norbit" or "Daddy Day Care." It’s the kind of occasionally funny crapfest that you wouldn’t mind watching on cable after midnight when most of your higher brain functions have shut down but you’re not quite ready to sleep. "Meet Dave" doesn’t demand anything from you. But you do wish you could demand a little more from it: The movie does descend down predictable lines and whatever charm the movie initially possessed is stretched thin. But for the kids out there who have never seen “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” or any other “Shrinking Man” movie will likely be tickled by the sight of mini-men adrift along the sidewalks of New York Times Square.
The movie also features Ed Helms (he plays Andy Bernard on TV’s “The Office”) and Gabrielle Union whose character has got lovestruck eyes on the Captain.