Review

Meet Dave Review

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Jul 10, 2008 | 7:53pm EDT

Murphy is back playing multiple roles in a family comedy which would seem irresistible. Actually Meet Dave is a germ of a good idea. Unfortunately the “germ” didn’t spread into the final script which has our man Ed literally playing a spaceship that lands in New York City. Inside Dave as the ship is quickly named are a group of tiny space explorers--a kind of Starship Enterprise meets Fantastic Voyage--who land on the gargantuan Earth in order to take our resources for their own planet’s survival. The ship’s commander (also played by Murphy) calls all the shots from his seat somewhere south of Dave’s throat while other crew members work the various appendages and body functions. The one-joke premise has Dave working undercover as a human being wandering the streets of the Big Apple mangling the language while trying to imitate the people he meets along the way in order to go undetected. A semi-love interest turns up when a young single mother Gina (Elizabeth Banks) accidentally hits him with her car. This incident leads to a relationship with her and son Josh (Austyn Myers) who immediately bonds with Dave--for some strange reason. But through these encounters with humans Dave’s crew discovers feelings and emotions they’ve never had--and all hell breaks loose. Outside of the occasional supporting role as with his superb Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning work in Dreamgirls  Eddie Murphy dominates an Eddie Murphy movie by playing multiple roles. In Meet Dave he surprisingly only takes on two--as the robotic Dave and the commander who controls him--and underplaying the roles for a nice change of pace. The salsa nightclub where Dave and Gina tear up the dance floor (as the mini-crew inside his head give him instant dance lessons) is a highlight. Portraying a wacky alien is certainly irresistible but Eddie Murphy plays his captain more Star Trek’s Spock than goofball almost making Meet Dave worth the price of admission. Almost. Banks is not called on to be much more than pleasant in her earth-bound role but acquits herself nicely in the shadow of her imposing leading man. Myers is cute as the son but nothing more. Best among the supporting cast are some of the crew members played by Gabrielle Union and particularly Ed Helms and Kevin Hart who don’t let their lack of height keep them from joining Eddie Murphy in getting most of what few solid laughs there are to be found in Meet Dave. Director Brian Robbins--who guided Eddie Murphy through the fat suit-centric comedy Norbit and hit box office pay dirt despite the critical drubbing--teams up with his star again. Success begets success in Hollywood so it was natural for them to re-team on another gimmick comedy. The good news is Robbins a former actor himself ( TV’s Head of the Class) knows how to get out of the way and let Eddie be Eddie--or whoever he happens to be in any given scene. Thankfully Robbins also encourages the rest of the cast to underplay their bits keeping Meet Dave out of the overly broad comedic realm most of these films fall into these days. The problem for Robbins Eddie Murphy and company is the film seems oddly flat and never quite matches a promising concept that must have worked well on the page. Meet Dave is passable family fare occasionally even inspired but in the end it remains earthbound.

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