The frustrating thing about Eddie Murphy is that even though he keeps making terrible movies, it isn’t because he’s somehow less intrinsically talented than he used to be. He’s not Chevy Chase, he still has something to offer, it’s just that he’s inexplicably decided to use whatever talent he has left in the tank on the most horrible comedy projects Hollywood has to offer. What makes it even more bizarre is that he’s chosen to do this. It’s not like he has stopped earning and he’s forced to take anything and everything he’s offered in order to pay off all the back taxes he owes Uncle Sam, lest he end up on a cot next to Wesley Snipes. Eddie Murphy has options, yet he has intentionally chosen to make movies like Norbit and now from the same director Meet Dave.
It’s only because the people involved in it are indeed so naturally talented that Meet Dave is not a laughter destroying, soul sucking, a-bomb. It’s merely blah. The cast here is far better than a movie like this deserves. Eddie Murphy leads a group of microscopic aliens who have come to Earth riding inside a spaceship which looks, oddly enough, exactly like Eddie Murphy. Eventually, they name their spaceship Dave. Dave’s crew includes great talents like the ever-sexy Gabrielle Union, Office asshole Ed Helms, and 30 Rock hat wearer Judah Friedlander. They’re on our planet looking for some sort of probe, which their people sent here to steal our oceans. The probe is in the possession of a 5th grader whose mother, played by Elizabeth “some day I’ll regret having this movie on my IMDB page” Banks, accidentally hits Dave with her car and starts dating him, completely unaware that he’s actually a hollow vehicle operated by dozens of tiny little dudes.
Here’s where I turn this review into a massive conspiracy theory, because what I haven’t told you about the plot is that a good portion of it seems to have been stolen from a cartoon. Pinky & the Brain in particular, popular in the late to mid-90s on the Warner Brothers TV network. Come on, you remember it. Super-intelligent lab rat and his super-stupid mouse sidekick escape from their lab every night and try to take over the world? Narf? Well several of their adventures involved a robot constructed by The Brain and designed to look exactly like a human. Brain and Pinky would then drive around in the robot interacting with mankind as if they were one of us, all the while plotting our doom. Sound familiar yet? Hey, it’s the plot of Meet Dave. It’s not just the concept that’s straight of a Pinky & the Brain episode, I’d swear it’s some of the actual, individual scenes are too. Maybe there are only so many places you can go with tiny creatures driving around in a robot human, but the similarities are hard to ignore, even the dialogue at times feels like something taken straight out of The Brain’s mouth. Ironically, it’s the parts of the film which seem most like a Warner Brothers cartoon that work best.
See, I’m not going to try and tell you that nothing in this movie works. It does, in places. There are some legitimate laughs, most resulting from rather juvenile gags revolving around language confusion. Eddie Murphy is funny. Even if the script is not, he is, and in more than one spot he and the rest of his talented cast overcome the movie’s deficiencies to deliver the odd chuckle. Unfortunately no matter how many laughs Murphy and the gang manage to squeeze out of this concept, there’s still the story which, couldn’t possibly be more poorly executed. At every turn Meet Dave chooses the stupidest direction to go, as if it doesn’t know it’s a live action movie and thinks it’s still a cartoon about two escaped lab rats. There’s this completely braindead MacGuffin involving the crew turning into gay flamingo dancers, just because they see us and apparently we’re so awesome, it makes aliens want to join a Rocky Horror revival. Worse, the whole thing gets pretty preachy by the end, devolving into one of those standard, lesson learned messages about how love and emotion conquer all. It’s beyond cheesy. No one ever seems to mention that all this wonderful human love and emotion also tend to get a lot of people killed. Crimes of passion? Anyone? Maybe they should have just gone with animation, it couldn’t possibly have looked worse than some of these special effects.
Look, Meet Dave is exactly what you’d expect from any modern Eddie Murphy film. It’s a pile of generic crap which manages, in spite of itself, to deliver a few laughs. Maybe it’s a little more ambitious than some of his more recent stuff and it’s certainly less blatantly evil than Norbit, but that doesn’t matter. As a human being you know instinctively whether or not you’re the right audience for it. If you are, buy a ticket and then hate yourself in the morning. I understand. I’m not going to judge you for it. At least he’s not Chevy Chase.