Meet Dave

Posted on November 25, 2008 at 8:00 am


It seems like Eddie Murphy wants to live in a world of his own. Increasingly, in movies like the execrable Norbit, he plays multiple parts and does his best to make sure that any parts played by other actors are bland and forgettable. He plays only two parts in his latest film, “Meet Dave,” but he has found a way to live in a world of his own — literally. He plays the captain of an alien spaceship that plans to steal all of Earth’s oceans. And he plays the spaceship itself, a white-suited humanoid structure designed to move about New York to find their missing ocean-sucking orb.

The aliens are tiny by Earth standards and it takes dozens of them to operate a human-sized spaceship. The cultural officer (Gabrielle Union, warm and elegantly beautiful as always) uses Google to explain what is going on and provide the captain with answers to questions he is asked. When he is asked for his name, she does a search of Earth’s most common names and he answers “Ming Cheng.”

The person asking his name is Gina (Elizabeth Banks), who accidentally hit the spaceship with her car and is trying to make sure what she thinks is a person is all right. When she says he looks more like a Dave, he tells her that his name is Dave Ming Cheng and he begins to befriend Gina and her 5th grader son Josh (Austin Lind Myers), and discover that the Earth inhabitants are not the useless barbarians he expected.

As “Dave” and, through him, his crew begin to interact with the earthlings they experience food, shopping, mochitos, salsa dancing, 5th grade bullies, and “A Chorus Line” (a couple of bars is enough to bring out the inner effeminate homosexual in a formerly macho weapons expert). They get a little drunk and they start to feel emotional.

The kids in the audience enjoyed the silly stuff, as when “Dave” ducks into an Old Navy changing room to manufacture American money out of his boxers. But director Brian Robbins (Norbit, Ready to Rumble) allows the film to sag between its weak and too-infrequent punchlines and has no idea of how to work with talented performers like Banks, who has not much to do other than a nervous laugh, and Union, limited to longing or impatient glances. Murphy seems angry and impatient with the material and the other performers. As horrible as Norbit is, at least it tried to build on the bitterness and insularity Murphy increasingly projects. Murphy manages a good silly walk but his best moments here only remind us of his better films, especially “Coming to America,” another fish-out-of-water story set in New York. These days, Murphy seems like a fish out of water as an actor on screen.

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7 Replies to “Meet Dave”

  1. We (Mom, Dad, and 16 y/o daughter) really enjoyed this movie. It was funny, not vulgar, not violent. OK, there was some mildly crude humor, some violence (but without gore), and some stereopicity. None of that seemed negative, and NOTHING like other Eddie Murphy movies or Adam Sandler movies.
    I wouldn’t take a 4th-6th grader to it – it’s not G and shouldn’t be – but I think it’s just fine for middle school and high school.
    We enjoyed it enough to rent it to see again, or even buy it once the initial DVD price drops.

  2. Thanks so much, PJ! This is exactly the kind of comment that is most helpful. I love giving my readers a range of reactions, especially positive thoughts on movies I could not find a way to like.

  3. WOW, I didn’t even realize this had been in the theaters already. It must truly be a leaf of skunk cabbage!

  4. I didn’t start out with high hopes for this movie – namely due to the lack of quality Eddie Murphy has put out in the last few years. It was better than I had expected though. We watched this together with our small children (4, 6) and I was still mostly okay with them seeing this. I felt less offended and less driven to “turn the channel” by this movie than I normally feel about most shows on prime time TV or even pre-prime time junk (TMZ, numerous court shows, Springer, syndicated re-run sitcoms [‘Family Guy’ & ‘The Simpsons’ being the real “winner” there] etc.)

  5. Glad to hear it! I’d love to know what the kids had to say about it. Thanks for the comment!

  6. My kids (5 & 9) and I just finished watching this & it was a riot. I really enjoyed watching Eddie’s movies when I was in college and am happy he is doing movies we can watch together as a family. It’s true there were some potty-humor moments, but there are shows on TV that I won’t let them watch because they are way worse (violent, profane language, etc).
    I asked my kids if they would recommend this movie & they said yes (actually, they said “to who” and then after I explained my question, they said yes).

  7. I’m glad that you and your children enjoyed the film, Shelly! Thanks for the comment. I’m hoping Murphy’s new film, “Imagine That,” opening next month, will be as much fun as it looks.

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