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July 11, 2008 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | July 11, 2008 |

I know everyone in Pajiba-land will be shocked, but Meet Dave was something of a conundrum for me to review. On the one hand, I would rather down a frothy mug of cat piss than sit through an Eddie Murphy vehicle (ha fucking ha) these days. On the other hand, the film was co-written by Bill Corbett, the awesome actor-scribe behind Crow T. Robot during the Sci-Fi Channel years of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Corbett, who has teamed with fellow misties Mike Nelson and Kevin Murphy on the similarly great Rifftrax/Film Crew projects, sits among the pantheon of my personal comedy gods. I can’t stress how pleased I am that a script of his was picked up, even if it has to be manned by Norbit and mangled by other writers to the point of little actual involvement. So, my biased sensibilities and happiness for Mr. Corbett actually had me yearning not to hate Meet Dave.

And, actually, I didn’t. Was it a great comedy? Certainly not, but neither was it the abomination unto God that was Norbit or Pluto Nash. Meet Dave has enough funny moments to be a pretty innocuous experience, even if most of the film’s goodwill is threadbare by the end of the first half hour. It’s serviceable as a comedy, most of the time, and never grating, even as the action becomes larded with platitudes and sentimentality by the end. It’s the kind of film that kids and geriatrics will chuckle over; everyone else may smirk, but shouldn’t sneer.

The premise is a familiar one: tiny people helm man-like craft, fish-out-of-water laughs ensue; think Innerspace meets “Herman’s Head.” The craft, played by Murphy, is maneuvered by a host of tiny, supposedly emotionless people, led by the Captain (Murphy again). The mini-aliens have come to Earth to find a probe meant to suck up the planet’s water supply for transport to their own homeworld. Predictable slapstick follows with the proxy attempts of the aliens to mime human behavior through a gesticulating man-bot. The story, when buoyed solely by physical comedy, is pretty entertaining. Murphy, as we all know, is fairly adroit at gyrating like an imbecile, but a plot like this only works for so long. To stretch this sitcom yarn into a 90-minute film a lot of useless, predictable mush is thrown into the mix — the Murphy machine finds a quasi love interest (Elizabeth Banks) with a beleaguered child (Austyn Myers) who’s oh-so in need of friendship and inspiration. This mood-swing into sentimentality isn’t always a bad thing (see Galaxy Quest), but Meet Dave isn’t quite up to the task of feel-good emoting. A comparable turn of events which leads to a romantic subplot involving Captain Murphy and a subordinate (Gabrielle Union) is never more than dull, as are most of the moments which stray from pure physical comedy.

Meet Dave bumbles along surprisingly well for most of the first half, relying on Murphy’s penchant for unselfconscious lunacy until the plot finally unfurls into mawkishness. Those expecting nothing should be amused; those who expect anything probably won’t be sitting through an Eddie Murphy film. Surely most of us belong to the former. Bill, buddy — you deserve better, but a gig’s a gig. For once, I hope a disposable little comedy makes a pile of money.

Phillip Stephens is the lead critic and book editor for Pajiba. He lives on the Satellite of Love.

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Meet Dave / Phillip Stephens

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